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Bush, Putin Meet in Maine to Shore-Up US-Russia Ties


Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in the United States for talks with President George W. Bush aimed at easing tensions between their two countries. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports the meetings are taking place at an unusual venue - the Bush family summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine.

They are meeting in virtual seclusion on the rocky coast of Maine. All the talks are being held in the sprawling house overlooking the sea owned by former President George H.W. Bush.

The house has been in the Bush family for about a century. And while former President Bush hosted a few world leaders there during his term in office, President Putin is the first to be invited by the current president.

The visit will last less than twenty-four hours. During a session with reporters, White House Spokesman Tony Snow was asked about the significance of holding the talks in Maine. "I just think it is an acknowledgment of the importance of the relationship, and also I think the importance of having an atmosphere that is going to be conducive to be relaxed but candid discussions of important issues," he said.

Snow emphasized there is no formal agenda for the talks, and he downplayed the notion that any breakthroughs might be imminent. "I would caution against expecting grand, new announcements. This is, in fact, an opportunity for two leaders to talk honestly and candidly with one another, and they get to - they're the ones who are going to control the agenda," he said.

The last time they met was in early June at the Group of Eight Summit in Germany. President Bush's plans for a missile shield in Europe dominated those discussions.

Missile defense is likely to be a key topic again in Kennebunkport, along with Russian opposition to independence for Serbia's Kosovo region.

President Bush is also expected to bring up Iran. The United States is urging the United Nations Security Council to impose tougher sanctions on Tehran - a move Moscow has resisted in the past.

Prior to Mr. Putin's arrival, hundreds of protesters gathered in Kennebunkport, and marched along a seaside road that leads to the Bush compound.

Most of the demonstrators were protesting U.S. policy in Iraq. But some shouted slogans condemning Russian actions in Chechnya.

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