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Home >> World
UPDATED: 10:33, July 03, 2007
Bush, Putin forge united front on Iran
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US President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin projected a united front yesterday against Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program.

"When Russia and the United States speak along the same lines, it tends to have an effect and therefore I appreciate the Russians' attitude in the United Nations," Bush said. "We're close on recognizing that we got to work together to send a common message."

Putin predicted that "we will continue to be successful" as they work through the UN Security Council.

Security Council members have begun discussing a US proposal for sanctions against Iran because of its refusal to stop enriching uranium. The US, Russia and their fellow permanent UN Security Council members, however, have told Iran they will hold off on new sanctions if it stops expanding its enrichment activities while they seek to restart talks about the program with Teheran. Diplomats say the Iranian government has not yet responded to the proposal.

Putin suggested there would be "further substantial intercourse on this issue."

It was unclear whether the leaders had agreed on methods or merely wanted to gloss over for public consumption any differences on strategy.

Bush and Putin have contrasting views on democracy and missile defense, NATO expansion into Russia's backyard and independence for Kosovo. They both want to stymie Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions, but have not seen eye-to-eye on how tough to get with Teheran or even whether Iranian missiles currently pose a threat.

Putin is the first foreign leader the US president has hosted at the century-old Kennebunkport compound, reflecting a growing US sense of urgency about reversing the slide in relations.

Earlier, Bush and the Russian leader piled into a powerful speedboat navigated by Bush's father - former president George H.W. Bush. Under a bright morning sunshine, Putin and the Bushes roamed close to the shoreline around the Bush family's oceanfront estate for about an hour and a half.

Putin was the only one to hook a fish within sight of news photographers watching nearby. The Bushes clapped while a smiling Putin posed with his trophy before throwing it back, apparently for being too small to keep under local rules.

Putin's aides said the two leaders had a discussion over dinner about upcoming elections in both countries that will choose their successors and agreed on the need to prevent campaign politics from impinging on US-Russia relations.

Aides agreed that the relaxed atmosphere was ideal to help the leaders narrow their differences but said it would not be enough to bridge them.

The biggest dispute hanging over yesterday's talks was a US plan to locate components of a missile defense system in eastern Europe.

Saying he was not convinced by US insistence that the shield was meant to defend against "rogue states", Putin recently threatened to re-target missiles toward Europe.

He caught Bush off guard last month with a counter-proposal - joint use of Russian radar in Azerbaijan, an offer US officials have promised to study but have cast doubt upon.

The two countries also disagree over Kosovo. Washington backs its independence from Serbia. Moscow opposes it.

Adding to tensions has been a recent spate of harsh rhetoric, with Bush chastising Russia for backsliding on democratic reforms and Putin seeming to compare US foreign policy to that of the Third Reich.

It was hoped that the elder Bush, who is not expected to participate beyond acting as host, would help ease strains by evoking a more constructive era in relations that followed the fall of the Soviet Union.

This tiny seacoast town has welcomed the Russian delegation, but an estimated 1,700 demonstrators interrupted a peaceful Sunday afternoon. They called for the impeachment of Bush and an end to the war in Iraq.

The demonstrators marched to within a kilometer of the site of the summit between Bush and Putin.

Four demonstrators wearing orange jumpsuits, like those worn by detainees at the US Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, kneeled on the ground near a police roadblock. Two demonstrators who crossed the police line were arrested.

The crowd criticized both world leaders - Bush for the war in Iraq and Putin for his hard line in Chechnya.

Source: China Daily

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