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Condoleezza Rice Ends Meetings With Russian Leaders - 2004-05-16


A senior U.S. official says meetings between U.S. national security advisor Condoleezza Rice and Russian leaders in Moscow were positive across a wide range of issues. Ms. Rice met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior officials during a three-day visit that ended Sunday.

The senior official, who requested anonymity, says the talks provided a good opportunity for an exchange of views on a wide variety of topics, including the situation in Iraq.

The official says President Putin and other Russian officials expressed concern about the difficult situation there.

The two sides also discussed a planned U.N. Security Council resolution that would deal with the issue of Iraq's political future.

The U.S. official says the Russians offered to support a resolution as long as it defines the powers that the interim Iraqi leadership will have after the planned handover from the current coalition authority on June 30.

Russia is proposing an international conference to help confer more legitimacy on the new Iraqi leadership, a conference that might include representatives from other nations in the Middle East.

Russian leaders also told Ms. Rice they were pleased she will be meeting Monday with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia in Berlin. Russia and the United States have worked together in what is called the quartet, along with the United Nations and the European Union, to try to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On other issues, the U.S. official says Ms. Rice expressed U.S. concerns about a perceived drift away from democratization and media freedom in Russia. The concern is apparently related to Russia's recent election, in which President Putin won a huge victory amid accusations that his party limited media coverage of his opponents.

In addition to Mr. Putin, Ms. Rice also met with Russia's Defense Minister, the head of the Security Council and the new prime minister, Mikhail Fradkov, who told Ms. Rice he plans to continue the process of economic reforms.

Overall, the U.S. official who spoke Sunday said both sides came away from the weekend meetings pleased, and with a sense that the United States and Russia have developed what he called a partnership over the past decade.

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