Bush-Putin Summit to Melt Ice

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and George W. Bush of the United States will meet this weekend to try to melt ice in relations between their countries before they both leave office in 2008.

Bush will receive the Russian leader at his family's estate in Kennebunkport, Maine, on July 1 and 2, a Kremlin aide told reporters at a preview briefing Friday.

"Given that the presidents are in for a detailed conversation on a whole range of topical issues and an international agenda, the American side's choice of the venue seems ideal: the leaders' informal talks in an unofficial setting will create the right conditions for [a high level of] efficiency we are hoping for," Sergei Prikhodko said.

While at Kennebunkport, Putin and Bush will try to overcome differences that have sent the U.S.-Russian relationship to its lowest point since the breakup of the Soviet Union. The meeting may be the two leaders' last opportunity to reverse the decline before their presidential terms expire next year.

The presidents are also expected to emphasize the positive legacy of their seven-year contacts, especially since 2007 marks the bicentenary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between their nations.

Putin and Bush will use the summit to follow up on their discussions of a controversial U.S. missile defense plan in Europe, Prikhodko said.

Nuclear arms control and cooperation in the nuclear industry will also be high on the summit agenda, he said.

Specifically, the presidents will discuss a possible replacement for the Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty (START), expiring in December 2009.

In the leadup to the summit, U.S. authorities are tightening security in the Kennebunkport area. Airspace over Bush's estate has been shut for flights within a radius of 16 kilometers (10 miles) since late Thursday, and the ban will remain in effect till midday July 2.

Measures are also being taken to ensure coastal security for the oceanfront compound.

Source: AFP

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