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Bush Raises Concerns With Putin Over Iranian Nuke Plant - 2002-05-24

After hours of summit talks in Moscow, the United States and Russia remain at odds over a nuclear power plant in Iran. Russia is helping to build the plant. But the Bush administration says the joint project poses a security threat.

At a joint news conference in the Kremlin, it was clear the two sides have yet to resolve their differences over the nuclear power project.

President Bush said he raised America's concerns during his summit talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. "We spoke very frankly and honestly about the need to make sure that a non-transparent government, run by radical clerics, doesn't get their hands on weapons of mass destruction," Mr. Bush said.

The Russian leader defended the project. Speaking through a translator, he denied the deal to construct a power plant will provide the Iranians with technology that has military applications.

"Cooperation between Iran and Russia is not of a character, which would undermine the process of non-proliferation," Mr. Putin said.

President Putin drew a comparison to U.S. involvement in a deal to provide North Korea with light water nuclear reactors, in exchange for assurances that Pyongyang will not seek to develop nuclear weapons.

"I'd like to point out also that the U.S. has taken a commitment upon themselves to build a similar nuclear power plant in North Korea," Mr. Putin said.

President Bush has linked North Korea, Iran and Iraq saying they comprise an "Axis of Evil" that seeks weapons of mass destruction and could put them in terrorist hands.

During their joint news conference, Mr. Bush said he had received assurances from the Russian leader about the nuclear power project in Iran. He said they will keep talking about the matter, adding it is in the best interests of the United States and Russia to resolve the problem.