Bush, Putin meet over missile defense shield, Iran nuclear program
WASHINGTON, July 2 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President George W. Bush on Monday had informal talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin over issues of anti-missile defense system and the disputed Iran nuclear program in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Speaking to reporters after the talks, Putin said: "We support the idea of consultations on missile defense and believe that the number of participants should be expanded to include the European States."
"This should be done within Russia-NATO council," Putin said.
The Russian leader also said that he did not believe it was necessary to have the missile defense systems in the Czech Republic and Poland.
On Iran, President Bush said Russia shared U.S. concerns about Iran's nuclear program. "I've been counting on the Russians' support to send a strong message to the Iranians," he said.
Bush is increasingly intent on stopping the Iranian nuclear program, the New York Times quoted an unidentified senior official as saying on Sunday. The report said that Bush would urge Putin to support a major escalation of pressure on Iran in Monday talks.
Putin arrived at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport Sunday afternoon for a less-24 hour visit to the United States, during which leaders of the two countries were believed to try to patch up a fraying Washington-Moscow relations.
Putin's latest visit to the United States occurred when U.S.-Russian relations have slid to their worst point since the Cold War.
Relations between Washington and Moscow have chilled as the United States has negotiated to place 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic as part of a global system to protect against missile threat from Iran and other countries it sees as "rogue" states.
Previous reports said the Bush-Putin meeting should focus a series of hard topics, including issues of missile defense, Iran's nuclear ambitions, the future of Kosovo and a civilian nuclear reactor cooperation initiative in addition to bilateral relations.
Washington and Moscow forged an anti-terrorism ally after the Sept. 11 attacks. But the bond has been repeatedly chipped by disputes developed over the Iraq war, missile defense plans, the fate of democracy in Russia, NATO expansion to Russia's doorstep.
Putin vehemently opposes U.S. plans for missile defense in Central Europe, but he proposed at a recent meeting in Germany of top industrialized countries the shared use of a Russia-rented early warning radar in Azerbaijan.
The White House has been careful not to dismiss Putin's suggestion.
Instead, White House spokesman Tony Snow said earlier that "the president was encouraged that President Putin thought it was important to talk about missile defense, recognizing that if a hostile power, a rogue nation gets the capability of putting nuclear weapons on a missile, everybody in Europe and Asia is going to be in jeopardy."
But U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said Washington will not embrace the facility in Azerbaijan as a substitute for a radar and interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic.