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Bush, Putin Discuss Iran

President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed to continue working together to resolve the stand-off over Iran enriching uranium. But the American leader failed to get President Putin's backing for economic sanctions if Tehran does not respond to international incentives.

President Bush had hoped Iran would respond to that package of incentives before Sunday's start of a meeting of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations outside St. Petersburg.

But Iran says that response will not come until August.

Taking questions from reporters with President Putin before the start of the G8 summit, Mr. Bush said he believes Iran is testing the resolve of the international community. The clearer they hear a unified message, he says, the closer Tehran is to realizing that there is a better way forward.

"Russia and the United States agree that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon," he said. "In other words, the Iranians need to understand that we are speaking with one voice, that they shouldn't have a weapon. And that is progress."

President Putin supports United Nations action against Iran if the government does not agree to international incentives. Speaking through interpreter, he says that action should not include blocking Iran's access to technology it has a right to pursue.

"I have already mentioned that we will not participate in any crusades, in any holy alliances," he said. "This is true, I reaffirm our position in this matter, but our common goal is to make the world a more secure place."

President Putin says international pressure on Iran is not some kind of plot but is instead a search for solutions that can ensure the secure development of Iran's legal access to nuclear technology.

"The approach has to be balanced and has to take into account the interest of the Iranian people in their desire to develop state-of-the-art high-tech industries, including nuclear ones," added Mr. Putin.

Russia is helping build Iran's first atomic power station and has significant investments in the country.

That has complicated American efforts to get Russia to back the threat of economic sanctions. Neither President Bush nor President Putin publicly discussed the threat of sanctions Saturday.

But in an interview with the Canadian television network CTV ahead of the G-8 summit, President Putin said sanctions against Iran could wreck what he called the current positive progress in talks over the country's nuclear program.

In that interview, President Putin said the problem has existed for several years and what will change if people wait three more weeks for Iran's response? Nothing, he said, so there is no need for commotion.