MOSCOW - US President Bush and Russia's Vladimir Putin confirmed at an
airport meeting on Wednesday they plan to sign a bilateral deal next week for
Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said
the presidents confirmed that they would sign a protocol paving the way for
Russia to join the WTO on the sidelines of an Asian economic summit in Hanoi
President Bush meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin
upon Bush's arrival in Moscow, November 15, 2006. At left is Laura Bush
and at right is Lyudmila Putina. [Reuters]
Bush and Putin also discussed Iran
and its nuclear program during an "extraordinarily positive and friendly"
meeting, Peskov added without giving further details.
Putin greeted Bush warmly as the US leader stepped off Air Force One under
chilly gray Moscow skies, and handed a bouquet of yellow and red flowers to US
First Lady Laura Bush.
The two leaders, accompanied by their wives, then walked into the VIP wing of
the airport building, chatting and smiling.
Bush was making a refueling stopover at Moscow's Vnukovo airport and Putin
traveled out to meet him -- an unusual step given the poor state of US-Russia
relations and the fact that the two men will meet again at the end of the week.
Putin and his wife Ludmila treated the Bushes to a typical Russian meal of
herring and beetroot, crab salad, tongue, pickled cabbage, and pancakes with
The Bushes gave the Putins a gift of a photograph showing the four of them
riding in a motorized buggy at the July G8 summit in St. Petersburg, the last
occasion the two men met.
The warmth shown by the two leaders in their personal relationship belied
serious difficulties in diplomatic relations between Moscow and Washington.
DIFFERENCES OVER IRAN
Relations between the U.S. and Russia have been at their lowest ebb in years
with Washington criticizing Putin's record on human rights and Russia's
opposition to the Iraq war and Moscow sniping at what it sees as an overly
aggressive US foreign policy.
The United States and its allies accuse Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons
under the guise of a civilian energy program and want tough United Nations
But Russia, one of the UN's five permanent Security Council members, dislikes
a European draft resolution and wants less restrictive measures with the aim of
coaxing Tehran back to the negotiating table.
Russian media and analysts have suggested that Washington may try to extract
commitments from Moscow to tough sanctions against Iran in return for supporting
Russia's WTO bid.
Negotiations over Russia's entry to the WTO have dragged on for years. Recent
sticking points included access for US meat to Russian markets and Russia's
willingness to crack down on Internet piracy of films and music.
Russia's backing over Iran is key because Moscow is helping build a nuclear
reactor at the Gulf port of Bushehr in Iran, which both sides insist will be
used for peaceful purposes only.
Bush and Putin also discussed broader nuclear proliferation issues and the
Middle East during their airport meeting which lasted an hour and a half, longer
than originally scheduled.