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Bush, Putin to Underscore Good Relations - 2003-05-31

President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to try and invigorate relations between their two countries following weeks of strong disagreement over the U.S.-led war in Iraq. The two leaders will hold a brief meeting Sunday in St. Petersburg, before heading to France for a summit of the G-8.

Presidents Bush and Putin have set a wide-ranging agenda for their second summit in six months, but analysts say the main focus of the talks will be to showcase that the U.S.-Russian relationship remains strong.

Before leaving Poland for St. Petersburg, President Bush said this is no time to stir up divisions. He also said that the United States was committed to a strong partnership with Europe, especially in the fight against terrorism.

Earlier, at a news conference with European leaders, President Putin praised President Bush for his willingness to compromise on the latest United Nations resolution on Iraq.

The Russian leader said the compromise affords the United Nations a key role in Iraq's post-war reconstruction, a position long advocated by Moscow.

Aside from Iraq, Presidents Bush and Putin are expected to discuss North Korea's nuclear program and Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran.

As President Bush arrived in St. Petersburg Saturday, more than 40 European leaders joined President Putin along the banks of the river Neva for an elaborate water show, featuring fountains and tall ships as part of the city's anniversary celebrations.

In opening the show, President Putin called his hometown a symbol of the country's future and, what he said, was its "definitive renewal."

Later, the leaders boarded hydro-foils for a ride across the Gulf of Finland to Peterhof Palace for a dinner to mark the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg's founding, complete with entertainment provided by world famous Italian tenor Luciano Pavorotti.

Following their meeting, Presidents Bush and Putin travel to Evian, France for a G-8 summit.