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Bush, Putin Seek Common Ground on Missile Defense

02 July 2007

U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin say they are seeking common ground on the controversial issue of missile defense. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports during talks at the Bush family summer home in Maine, they looked for ways to resolve their deep differences on this key issue.

They still have not reached a meeting of the minds on missile defense. But both sides are showing an eagerness to defuse the issue, and come up with a plan that suits all sides.

President Bush wants to put missile defense systems in the Czech Republic and Poland to guard against attacks should nuclear weapons get into the wrong hands.

Russia is opposed to those sites. At the recent Group of Eight Summit in Germany, President Putin proposed using a Soviet-era early warning radar system located in Azerbaijan as an alternative. In Kennebunkport, he suggested incorporating a radar facility in southern Russia, and talked about the need for even closer consultations between the Russians and NATO.

He said there is no longer any need for facilities in Poland or the Czech Republic. President Bush disagreed on that point, but said the new ideas suggested by the Russian leader are worth considering.

"I think it is very sincere. I think it is innovative. I think it is strategic. But as I told Vladimir, I think the Czech Republic and Poland need to be an integral part of the system," Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush also spoke of cooperation between the United States and Russia on Iran. He said they are both concerned about Tehran's nuclear intentions, downplaying differences over the best solution to the problem. "We have no problems with the people of Iran but we do have a problem with a regime that is in defiance of international norms," he said.

Presidents Bush and Putin faced reporters along the rocky coast of Maine, with a seascape of clouds and waves serving as a backdrop. Their tone was collegial, reflecting the informal setting. Standing in shirtsleeves, they called each other by their first names, and spoke of the growing relationship between their two countries.

President Bush was asked if given all the tensions of recent years with Moscow, he still trusts Vladimir Putin. "Do I trust him? Yeh, I trust him. Do I like everything he says? No. And I suspect he doesn't like everything I say," he said.

Mr. Bush said it is important for the U.S. to have strong ties with Russia. President Putin emphasized the evolution of those ties since the fall of the Soviet Union.

He said the United States and Russia no longer look at each other through the sights of a gun, then added "we are no longer enemies."

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