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Obama, Medvedev Say They Have Reset US-Russia Relations

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U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev say they have succeeded in resetting their countries' relationship, which had drifted in recent years.  The two leaders discussed trade and security at the White House Thursday, after going out for hamburgers.

Presidents Obama and Medvedev say the United States and Russia will broaden their cooperation on intelligence and counterterrorism, and have improved their economic ties.

Mr. Obama told reporters he and Mr. Medvedev have put their countries' relationship on a firmer footing, despite disagreeing about Russia's tensions with Georgia.

"Our two countries continue to disagree on certain issues, such as Georgia, and we addressed those differences candidly," he said. "But by moving forward in areas where we do agree, we have succeeded in resetting our relationship, which benefits regional and global security."

The president said he and his counterpart have moved beyond only discussing the issues covered in most previous U.S.-Russian meetings.

"Because 20 years after the end of the Cold War, the U.S.-Russian relationship has to be about more than just security and arms control," he said.  "It has to be about our shared prosperity, and what we can build together."

President Obama said he will speed discussions on Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization.  

U.S. support for Moscow's joining the WTO has come with conditions in the past.  But Mr. Obama says most of the differences have been resolved, and he believed the rest will be soon.

"Russia belongs in the WTO," he said.  "That is good for Russia, it is good for America, and it is good for the world economy."

Mr. Obama said a major hurdle was cleared when Moscow agreed to lift a six-month ban on the sale of U.S. poultry in Russia.

Mr. Medvedev said he believes the obstacles to his country joining the WTO can be removed in the next few months.

"There are some remaining technical minor problems, and our teams have been instructed to work as fast as possible," he said.  "We hope, and we have stated this, that their work will be finalized by the end of September this year."

President Obama said his replacement of his top commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, with General David Petraeus will not slow U.S. efforts to win the Afghan war.  He said Petraeus helped to shape the U.S. strategy there.

Mr. Medvedev was asked whether he had given Mr. Obama advice on Afghanistan, which the former Soviet Union had invaded in 1979 with disastrous results.  He said he supports the U.S.-led invasion if it can lead to a better life in Afghanistan.

"Having an effective state and a modern economy, which requires toiling more than a year," the Russian president.  "But this is the path to guarantee that the gravest scenarios of the last time will not repeat.

Mr. Obama said he and Mr. Medvedev agreed to coordinate humanitarian aid to Kyrgyzstan, where about 2,000 people have died in violence after the president was removed from power.

This was the seventh meeting between the two leaders, who will go to Toronto, Canada for the G20 economic summit, which begins Friday.

After their meetings at the White House, Mr. Obama took his Russian visitor to lunch at a hamburger restaurant near Washington.  Mr. Medvedev said the beef-and-cheese sandwiches were probably not very healthy, but quite tasty, and part of the spirit of America.

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