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Bush, Putin Vow Increased US-Russian Cooperation - 2003-06-01

President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin are vowing increased cooperation despite their recent and very public differences on Iraq. They say they are looking forward, and insist the U.S.-Russian relationship is stronger than ever.

The two presidents are trying to present a united front after their recent split on the need for military action against Iraq.

After their first face-to-face meeting since the war, they put the focus on areas of agreement. Mr. Bush said they are both committed to meet the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction. "We strongly urge North Korea to visibly, verifiably, and irreversibly dismantle its nuclear weapons program," he said.

He also spoke of a shared concern regarding Iran. "We are concerned about Iran's advanced nuclear program and urge Iran to comply in full with its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty," he said.

Mr. Bush noted the United States remains worried about Russia's role in building a nuclear power plant in Iran. President Putin rejected the criticism, but insisted this and other issues dividing the two countries can be resolved. Mr. Putin said there are no problems in the relationship between Russia and the United States that cannot be overcome. He said there is no alternative to cooperation between Washington and Moscow.

President Putin said, overall, the relationship is strong, stronger than the forces that have tested it in recent months. He downplayed any lingering differences, as did Mr. Bush, and they referred to each other, as they have in the past, as friends.

The met with reporters after a private meeting in St. Petersburg that lasted under an hour. Their news conference began with the exchange of documents ratifying the nuclear arms reduction treaty signed last year in Moscow. It ended with a hand shake, and plans to meet again in September at Camp David, President Bush's official retreat near Washington.