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Bush and Putin Disagree on Iran

Russia's President Vladimir Putin says he supports Iran's pursuit of nuclear energy. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, President Bush says Iran is secretly developing a nuclear weapons program.

Following talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this week, President Putin renewed his support for Tehran's pursuit of nuclear powered energy.

President Bush says that is not what the Russian leader told him last month at an economic conference in Australia. Speaking to reporters at a White House news conference, Mr. Bush said he looks forward to hearing from President Putin about his talks in Tehran.

"The thing I am interested in is whether or not he continues to harbor the same concerns that I do," said President Bush. "I say continues because when we were in Australia, he reconfirmed to me that he recognizes that it is not in the world's interest for Iran to have the capacity to make a nuclear weapon."

President Bush says Russia has been part of what he calls good progress at the United Nations to tighten economic sanctions against Iran. While Mr. Bush says he believes the dispute can be resolved diplomatically, he wants a new U.S. radar station and missile battery in the Czech Republic and Poland to guard against Iranian missiles.

President Putin has suggested that the American leader is starting a new arms race. The two sides have since cooled their rhetoric and are discussing the possible use of a Soviet-era radar station in Azerbaijan.

President Putin and President Ahmadinejad were joined in Tehran by the leaders of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. The five countries agreed on Tuesday that none of the Caspian Sea nations would allow their territories to be used for an attack against a neighbor.

President Putin and President Ahmadinejad said Caspian leaders should prohibit outside interference in their affairs.

In Washington, President Bush says Iran's nuclear ambitions are a world-wide concern.

"If Iran had a nuclear weapon, it would be a dangerous threat to world peace," said Mr. Bush. "We have got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. So I have told people that if you are interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."

President Putin told reporters on Tuesday that Russia will honor its commitment to help Iran finish a nuclear power plant, though he gave no timeframe for completion.

The Caspian Sea summit backed Iran's right to use nuclear energy for peaceful means as a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.