Russian President Vladimir Putin has met with White House National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice in Moscow to discuss plans for the transfer of power in Iraq next month.
The Kremlin press service says President Putin discussed Iraq, the Middle East and bilateral relations at his meeting with Ms. Rice, who gave the Russian leader a letter from President Bush.
No other details were made available about the Kremlin meeting, which was followed by talks between Ms. Rice and Russia's defense and security ministers.
However, officials on both sides said Iraq was the prime topic on the agenda. The Bush administration wants to draw up a new U.N. Security Council resolution concerning the planned restoration of Iraqi self-rule on June 30.
Russia was one of the leading opponents of the U.S. -led war in Iraq, but officials in Moscow say they are willing to support Washington's effort to get a new resolution.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov said earlier Russia wants to see a two-stage process prior to June 30. First, he said, U.N. envoy to Iraq Lakhdar Brahimi should announce the make-up of a new Iraqi interim government. Then, a U.N. Security Council resolution would be drawn up to clearly define the authority the new government would have.
Most important, Russia says, ordinary Iraqis need to know that the new, transitional government would replace the current, U.S. -appointed governing council. Russia says it would not oppose the deployment of a peacekeeping force with a clear mandate from the United Nations.
After her visit to Moscow, Ms. Rice heads for Germany, another country that strongly opposed the war in Iraq. While in Germany, she is expected to meet Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia.