Rice Flies In to Soothe Strained Ties
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|Mon, 04-07-2003 - 1:06pm|
Rice was scheduled to meet with a number of top Russian officials, a U.S. Embassy spokesman said. She was to leave Monday, said the spokesman, who could not offer specifics on her agenda.
Interfax, citing unnamed sources, reported that Rice would meet with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Security Council chief Vladimir Rushailo.
"We are committed to our long-term strategic partnership with Russia," the embassy spokesman said. "We've been through some difficult times, and differences over Iraq have strained the relationship."
The day before, President Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone with U.S. President George W. Bush. "Despite well-known differences on the Iraq crisis, the importance of pursuing an intense political dialogue between the two countries was stressed in order to find solutions in the interests of the international community," the Kremlin said in a statement.
The talks Saturday were initiated by Washington.
Putin spoke to Bush after urging the State Duma to set aside the differences over Iraq and ratify the Moscow Treaty on cutting strategic nuclear arsenals.
"Our position and that of the United States on the Iraqi problem do not coincide, we have different approaches and that, of course, creates a rather unfavorable background for further work on ratification of this agreement," Putin told reporters. "But it is in the interests of Russia to see this document ratified."
The Moscow Treaty, signed by Putin and Bush last year, provides for each side's arsenal to be cut by two-thirds.
The U.S. Senate ratified the pact last month, days before military action got under way in Iraq. But members of the Duma put off a vote on ratification.
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, generally more vocal than Putin in his criticism of U.S. policy, said last week that the time was not favorable for seeking the State Duma's approval.
The Kremlin said Putin had also spoken by phone to French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard SchrÃšder.
Putin and SchrÃšder are to meet at the end of this week in St. Petersburg.
On Friday, Putin discussed the Iraqi crisis by telephone with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, the Kremlin said.
Meeting Friday in Paris, Ivanov and his French and German counterparts renewed demands that the United Nations play a major role in postwar Iraq.
But France's foreign minister called for pragmatism, too, saying U.S.-led forces are best placed to secure the country when the shooting stops.
The foreign ministers insisted that international unity is indispensable in dealing with postwar Iraq. (Reuters, AP)