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Russia Dissatisfied with Bush's Threats to Iran, Iraq, North Korea - 2002-02-04

President Bush met at the White House Monday with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. They talked about war on terrorism and plans for Mr. Bush to travel to Russia later this year.

Russia supports the U.S. led military operation in Afghanistan. But there is uneasiness in Moscow about possible next steps in the war on terrorism.

Russian officials made abundantly clear they were not pleased last Tuesday when President Bush referred to Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as an "axis of evil."

In his State of the Union address, Mr. Bush said these countries are seeking weapons of mass destruction that could land in terrorist hands or be used to blackmail the United States. He said such threats would not be tolerated.

When he emerged from the White House, Mr. Kasyanov was asked about the matter. He made clear differences persist.

"Right now, we are not calling those threats already in place," he said.

He said Russia wants hard evidence before it will accuse any country of posing a grave threat.

"We should identify dangers, real dangers, rather than imaginary," Mr. Kasyanov said.

But the Russian Prime Minister also stressed that Russia wants to work with the United States in fighting terrorism and other efforts.

"We will continue to work closely. Our defense people, our intelligence people will exchange information and will deal with those issues so that we will be sure that we correctly identify all problems," he pointed out.

Mr. Kasyanov also talked to reporters about plans for the next summit meeting between President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He said both sides are working on an arms agreement that would codify the cuts in nuclear warheads the two leaders announced in November. He said negotiating teams are working to translate those individual cuts into a treaty and move the process further.