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Russia and the United States confirm WTO deal

CSMS Magazine Staff WritersIn his first visit abroad after the democratic sweep, George Bush arrived in Moscow confirming that he plans to sign a bilateral deal next week with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, for Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, affirmed that the two head-of-states have pledged their desire to sign a protocol paving the way for Russia to join the WTO on the sidelines of an Asian economic summit in Hanoi next Sunday.The two presidents also discussed Iran and its nuclear program during an “extraordinarily positive and friendly” meeting, Peskov added without giving further details.According to Reuters News Agency, Bush was warmly greeted by his Russian counterpart “as the U.S. leader stepped off Air Force One under chilly gray Moscow skies, and handed a bouquet of yellow and red flowers to U.S. First Lady Laura Bush.” The two leaders were accompanied by their wives. They then “walked into the VIP wing of the airport building, chatting and smiling.” Bush was making a refueling stopover at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport, and Putin went to meet him there. This is considered an unusual step given the poor state of U.S.-Russia relations and given the fact that the two men will meet again at the end of the week.According to Russian news reports, Putin and his wife Ludmila, treated the Bushes to a typical Russian meal of herring and beetroot, crab salad, tongue, pickled cabbage, and pancakes with caviar.In return, the Bushes gave the Putins a gift of a photograph showing the four of them riding in a motorized buggy at the July G8 summit in St. Petersburg, the last occasion the two men met.However, no one should be fouled by this cordial meeting between the two men. This warm welcome practically belies the deep differences in diplomatic relations between Moscow and Washington.Relations between Washington and Moscow have reached in all time low in recent years with the Bush Administration criticizing Putin’s record on human rights and Russia’s opposition to the Iraq war and Moscow sniping at what it sees as an overly aggressive U.S. foreign policy.The United States and Western Europe accuse Iran of trying to acquire the Ultimate weapon under the camouflage of a civilian energy program and want tough United Nations sanctions.On the other hand, Russia, one of the U.N.’s five permanent Security Council members, opposes the last European draft resolution that asks for tough measures against Iran if the that country does not relinquish its desire to pursuit nuclear weapon. Russia prefers less restrictive measures with the aim of coaxing Tehran back to the negotiating table.Russian media and analysts have suggested that Washington may try to extract commitments from Moscow to tough sanctions against Iran in return for supporting Russia’s WTO bid. Negotiations over Russia’s entry to the WTO have dragged on for years. Recent sticking points included access for U.S. meat to Russian markets and Russia’s willingness to crack down on Internet piracy of films and music.Russia is currently helping Iran to build a nuclear reactor ‘s at the Gulf port of Bushehr, something that both sides insist will be used for peaceful purposes only. Their airport meeting lasted about an hour and a half, longer than originally scheduled. The two leaders also discussed other flash points that affect their bilateral relation, including Central Asia and other problems of strategic interest in the Middle East.Also see Russia and China: http://www.csmsmagazine.org/news.php?pg=20061111I332

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