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NATO Leaders, Putin Meet in Bucharest


NATO leaders wrapped up their summit in Bucharest, Romania with a closed-door meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports participants say there were no breakthroughs but there was no confrontational language either.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hope Scheffer opened the session with brief public remarks.

"Today, our relations are truly multi-facetted, influenced both by political realities and issues on which we differ as well as by practical and very pragmatic common interests," he said.

And then the news media was ushered out, and the doors were closed.

When it was all over, President Putin gave his take on the meeting at a press conference. He said he was pleased with the discussions, and said there can be no return to the Cold War.

He spoke through an interpreter:

"Maybe there are some interests which would want to gain some opportunities in the murky waters of another cold war," he said. "But global players - I mean neither the Europe, nor the United States, nor Russia has any interest in returning to the past. There is no need for this."

But the Russian leader lashed out at the eastward expansion of NATO.

"The appearance of a powerful military bloc along our borders would be taken in Russia as a direct threat to the security of my country," he added.

On Thursday, the western military alliance turned down a bid by Georgia and Ukraine to be put on an immediate path to membership. But NATO members declared they intend to eventually bring the two former Soviet republics into the fold.

Just hours before President Putin met with summit leaders, the alliance discussed the outlook for eventual membership with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.

Speaking thru an interpreter, Mr. Yushchenko the membership decision in the best possible light, focusing on the promise of future action.

"This is the first time when it was clearly determined that Ukraine will be in NATO," he said. "This is an historic event for our people and our country."

Two Balkan nations were invited to join the alliance at the Bucharest summit - Croatia and Albania. Shortly after the summit came to an end, President Bush arrived in Zagreb, the Croatian capital.

During his 24 hour visit, Mr. Bush will celebrate the NATO invitation with Croatian and Albanian leaders.

He then heads to the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi for his final face-to-face meeting with Vladimir Putin before he steps down as Russian president next month. A senior U.S. official said President Bush sees it as a meeting of two old war horses. Mr. Putin's successor Dimitri Medvedev will also take part in the discussions.

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