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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bush Talks to Putin on Iraq and Defense

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine — U.S. President George W. Bush and President Vladimir Putin discussed Friday their differences over policy on Iraq sanctions as they resumed a friendly dialogue begun last month in Slovenia.

During the 10-minute telephone call, Putin also wished Bush a happy 55th birthday.

Bush — who drew fire from some conservatives at home for saying at a joint news conference with Putin last month in Slovenia that Putin was a man he could trust — told reporters Friday: "It's important that I have a good relationship with Mr. Putin."

"It's good for our nations, and it's also good for the world for us to develop a good relationship, so we can work together to make the world more secure," Bush said.

Bush told Putin that a trade mission led by Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, Commerce Secretary Don Evans and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice would visit Moscow late this month, after Bush meets Putin at a summit of the seven major industrial nations plus Russia in Genoa, Italy.

"It's a sign of the strength of U.S.-Russian relations and the importance President Bush attaches to helping Russia to have a strong economy," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said in announcing the visit.

Rice will also visit Ukraine.

In Moscow, the Kremlin said in a statement that the two leaders discussed "concrete plans for Russian-American ties in light of the results of the Ljubljana [Slovenia] summit, which by their mutual assessment gave a positive impulse to bilateral ties and promoted an improvement in the climate of trust in international affairs."

Fleischer described the conversation as a warm one.

The two presidents discussed differences on Iraq policy and U.S. plans for a missile defense system.

The United States and Russia are sharply divided over sanctions policy toward Iraq. Russia, an ally of Iraq, has threatened to use its veto in the UN Security Council to block an overhaul of sanctions proposed by Britain and the United States.

Their plan would ease restrictions on civilian goods imported to Iraq, retain bans on military supplies and attempt to stop smuggling routes.

But because of Russian opposition, the Security Council instead last Tuesday renewed for five months, without changes, the oil-for-food program as Baghdad wanted.

Fleischer said Bush told Putin that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov still had work to do on the Iraq sanctions policy.

Fleischer pointed out that four of the five Security Council members — which means all but Russia — have supported a change in the sanctions policy, which he called "a sign of clear progress."

He declined to say whether Bush urged Putin to adopt the U.S. position but said Bush "believes that we can have a sanctions policy that is tight, that is not full of holes the way the current policy is, that operates in a manner so that Iraq is not able to rebuild its military without doing harm to civilians."

Bush, who spoke by telephone to Chinese President Jiang Zemin on Thursday, also discussed the missile defense system to protect countries from missiles fired by so-called rogue nations like Iraq and Libya. No new developments were reported.

Building the new system would at the least require Russian acceptance of amendments to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and the Bush administration has made clear it might ditch the Soviet-era pact.

"We share common interests," Bush said. "He's [Putin's] deeply concerned about extremism and what extremism can mean to Russia. And as you know, I am too."