Bush, Putin hold final tete-a-tete in good spirits

April 6th, 2008 - 3:40 pm ICT by admin  

Moscow/Sochi, April 6 (DPA) Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart George W. Bush opened their final tete-a-tete meeting Sunday seeking to commemorate personal ties in a roadmap US-Russian agreement aimed at papering over entrenched discord on missile defence and other issues. Putin, leaving office in May, and Bush, in January, displayed characteristic camaraderie as the US president was welcomed to a casual dinner Saturday at Putin’s residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Opening remarks were lighthearted Sunday morning with Bush joking over having joined in local dancing the evening before. “I am just happy that my press corps didn’t see me try to dance,” he laughed.

“We have been able to see you’re a brilliant dancer,” news agency Interfax quoted Putin as answering.

Bush will also hold his first talks with Putin’s successor Dmitry Medvedev, highlighting both sides’ attention to managing relations during the transition period.

Both presidents have underscored warm personal ties in deflecting from a growing number of testy security issues as they compete for influence in Europe.

“I’ve come to respect you. You’ve been a strong leader,” Bush said. “When all is said and done, we’ll shake hands.”

“You’re not afraid to tell me what’s on your mind,” Bush praised the Kremlin leader.

The Sochi meeting comes on the heels of a face off at this week’s NATO summit where Kremlin grievances that NATO’s spread eastward threatens its security were seen to have trumped US desires that Georgia and Ukraine join NATO.

But the United States won NATO’s full backing for its plans to deploy a missile defence system in eastern Europe, an eventuality the Kremlin finds even more threatening.

Washington says the system is not aimed at Russia, but needed to protect against “rogue states” such as Iran.

Despite Russia’s acknowledgement of the “usefulness” of recent concessions from Washington, US officials downplayed hopes Saturday that a compromise on missile defense could be included in the anticipated agreement.

“We’re going to have to do more work after Sochi,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters on the flight to Sochi.

“No one has said that everything would be finalised and everyone would be satisfied,” she added.

Rather, officials on both sides said the “strategic framework” agreement would constitute a broad roadmap to guide future US-Russian Relations.

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