Friday, November 18, 2005

Bush seeks Putin's help on Iran, North Korea

Yahoo News:

Fri Nov 18, 2:55 AM ET

BUSAN, South Korea (AFP) - US President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin, showing no signs of strains in their relationship, have met for talks focused on nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea.

"We've got a very important relationship. We value your advice and we value the strategic relationship we've built," Bush said as they sat down on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum summit here.

The US president hoped to win support from Putin to ensure Iran does not get nuclear arms, and erase differences on six-country talks aimed at convincing North Korea to dismantle its atomic weapons programs, US officials said.

But Bush also planned to express concerns about Putin's moves to centralize political power in the Kremlin and Moscow's push to close down foreign-funded non-governmental organizations, the officials said on condition of anonymity.

"It's very agreeable that we have virtually permanent contacts on both bilateral relations and the international agenda," said Putin, who came to APEC hoping to convert Russia's wealth in natural resources into regional influence.

A senior Kremlin official confirmed the talks between Bush and Putin centered on the nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea and also touched on developments in Iraq and "the situation around Syria".

The official, Putin's foreign policy advisor Sergei Prikhodko, said the two men also discussed their efforts to fight terrorism, with the Russian leader stressing the importance of Moscow and Washington taking "joint steps" in this area.

On global trade relations, Prikhodko said Putin thanked Bush for US support of Russia's campaign to accede to the World Trade Organization (WTO) but noted Washington has not yet endorsed Russia's immediate entry into the body.

"A few practical problems remain" on that issue, he said, without elaborating.

Russia and Vietnam are the only two economies in the 21-member APEC forum that have yet to join the WTO.

Despite lingering differences between Moscow and Washington on key issues, Prikhodko said the meeting between Bush and Putin, which lasted for more than an hour and was also attended by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, took place in a "very warm and good-natured atmosphere".

"I always enjoy a chance to have a good discussion with you," Bush told Putin, setting the casual tone immediately upon entering the room with a "hey, Vladimir, how are you?"

While Moscow has dutifully fallen in line with APEC calls for Europe to trim farm subsidies to free up world trade, real Kremlin passions center on using the forum to cement long-term trade links between Russia's resource-rich Siberian and Far East regions and Pacific Rim countries.

Another key Russian official travelling with Putin, Energy and Industry Minister Viktor Khristenko, told reporters that Russia and South Korea were studying future energy and investment projects as part of Kremlin efforts to speed economic development in east Russia.

"We are working on an inter-governmental agreement" that would set out plans for developing infrastructure for natural gas deliveries from the island of Sakhalin and other parts of Russia's Far East to South Korea, Khristenko said.

The US president meanwhile has made clear he aims to rally his partners in the six-party talks in a show of unity aimed at wearing down Pyongyang's resistance to dismantling its atomic weapons and programs.

Earlier, Bush also met with leaders of countries from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to seek more pressure on Myanmar over human rights and democratic reforms.

"The president is interested in having a frank discussion with leaders who have influence on that regime, on how we can collectively try to improve the situation for the people there," said Mike Green, senior Asia director on Bush's national security council.


Post a Comment

<< Home