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Blair, Putin Agree on Iraq Reconstruction - 2003-06-26

Despite their disagreements over military action against Saddam Hussein, Russian President Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister Tony Blair agreed today on the importance of working together to reconstruct Iraq.

With the war in Iraq over, the rift between Britain and Russia appears to be resolved.

At a joint news conference at the end of President Putin's three-day state visit to Britain, the two leaders made clear that the divisions caused by the conflict in Iraq are healing.

Mr. Blair said he is pleased that Moscow is prepared to help in the various post-war efforts.

"We did discuss what contributions and help Russia could make within the context of course of the U.N. resolution 1483," he said. "That now gives us a framework in which countries in Europe, Russia, other colleagues throughout the world can make a contribution and that is important."

Russian President Putin agreed on the need for his country to lend assistance to rebuild Iraq.

"We are willing and happy to make our contribution given our possibilities and objectives in Iraq," he said. "We shall cooperate and work very frankly indeed and this is guaranteed in fact by improving relationships between our special services." And Mr. Blair said the two leaders also discussed increased cooperation in global security matters.

"Whatever the differences there were over Iraq however, we are working immensely closely on the international stage to confront the issues that are before us," he said. "Issues to do with international terrorism, issues to do with weapons of mass destruction, issues to do with bringing peace and stability into the world."

Mr. Blair, in another sign of the renewed relationship between London and Moscow, also announced that Britain would be investing heavily in Russia's oil industry.

"This morning as you know, we were at an energy summit in which we gave a push forward to the developing energy relationship, commercial relationship between Britain and Russia and our companies that will make Britain the number one investor in Russia," he said.

In addition to the energy investment, Mr. Putin said the two had also discussed future cooperative efforts in a number of high-tech fields.