Iraq and Iran Top Camp David Talks
September 26, 2003
WASHINGTON -- Iraq is expected to dominate talks between U.S. President George W. Bush and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin when they meet at Camp David, while Iran is expected to cast a shadow.
The fight against terrorism and Russia's oil exports also are expected to be discussed during the two-day talks beginning Friday at the presidential retreat.
Differences between the two leaders over Iraq are set to top the agenda.
Putin opposed the U.S.-led war on Iraq, preferring to go through the United Nations. He repeated this position shortly ahead of his visit, saying, "The situation that is developing in Iraq is the best confirmation that Russia was right."
Coalition forces are coming under attack almost daily, with other organizations such as the United Nations also being targeted. (Full story)
Putin appeared before the U.N. General Assembly Thursday, saying the United Nations alone could bring democracy and stability to the country. (Full story)
"The direct participation by the United Nations alone in the rebuilding of Iraq will enable its people themselves to decide on their future," Putin said.
"Only with the active, practical assistance by the United Nations in its economic and civil transformation, only thus will Iraq take a new, worthy place in the world community."
Stefan Wagstyl, east European editor for the Financial Times newspaper, told CNN: "Putin comes to meet Bush in a fairly strong position.
"He has come out of the Iraq crisis quite well. For one, he does not have soldiers engaged on the ground, which is very popular in Russia because Russians are dead against sending their soldiers to the Mideast in this way," Wagstyl said.
On the other hand, Putin did not annoy Bush and his White House team in the same way the leaders of France and Germany did with their outspoken opposition to the war, Wagstyl added.
"So both externally and internally, his position is not bad at all considering how difficult the past few months have been for diplomacy," he said.
'You bet we'll talk Iran'
Alarmed by Tehran's developing nuclear program, Bush says he will bring up subject of Iran with Putin.
"You bet I'll talk to President Putin about it this weekend," Bush said Thursday.
Russia is helping Tehran in an $800 million project to build a nuclear energy reactor. But the Bush administration says Russian technology is helping Iran develop a nuclear weapons program -- something which Moscow denies.
"It is very important for the world to come together to make it very clear to Iran that there will be universal condemnation if they continue with a nuclear weapons program," Bush said.
The meeting comes as diplomats say U.N. atomic experts have found traces of weapons-grade uranium at a second site in Iran. (Full story)
North Korea also is suspected of using Russian nuclear technology in its developing program. Pyongyang's policy is causing alarm in Washington, but Moscow, while expressing opposition, says it does not see the issue with the same degree of urgency.
"It is not in Russia's interest that Iran becomes a nuclear power. Iran is in Russia's geographic zone," Wagstyl said. "On the other hand, Russia has a large nuclear industry that needs and wants customers."
Oil also is likely to be a factor in the Bush-Putin talks, with Russia possibly becoming a key source of oil and gas supplies for U.S. markets.
"This is important -- one which both sides can agree," Wagstyl said.
"It is important and prudent for Putin's position that oil is developed and exported. And it is important for the U.S. interest that world supplies are stabilized and diverted away from Saudi Arabia." http://edition.cnn.com/2003/US/09/26/bush.putin/index.html