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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Pitching for Russia in the U.S.

APPresident Vladimir Putin signing the Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov watches Wednesday.
While international issues will dominate the agenda of President Vladimir Putin's visit to the United States, he will also go off the beaten path between the United Nations and the White House to visit the Guggenheim Museum in New York City and the former Military Ocean Terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey, as part of a Kremlin drive to give Russia a friendlier face.

Putin began his three-day visit Wednesday at the UN headquarters by becoming the first leader to sign a Russian-sponsored treaty making it a crime to possess radioactive material or weapons with the intent of committing a terrorist act. The Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism was approved by the 191-nation UN General Assembly on April 13, but it needs to be ratified by several dozen countries before it can become international law.

After signing the accord, Putin sat with the roughly 170 heads of state who had gathered in the main hall of UN headquarters to listen to opening-day speakers, including U.S. President George W. Bush.

Putin later participated in a 15-nation Security Council session that unanimously passed two resolutions -- one to prevent the incitement of terrorism and the other to prevent conflict, especially in Africa. Leaders of the 15 nations sat around the horseshoe-shaped table for the vote, something extremely rare in the history of the council.

In a speech to the council, Putin warned against "flirting" with terrorists and called in the international community to condemn and prosecute not only the organizers and executors of terrorist acts but inciters as well, Interfax reported.

"New, serious challenges [have emerged], including putting a stop to the incitement of terror," Putin said. "Such actions must be recognized as criminal by all states without any exception."

Afterward, Putin met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He expressed his condolences to Talabani over bombings in Baghdad that had killed more than 150 people earlier in the day.

The Iraqi leader said in reply: "We would very much like Russian companies to return to Iraq" -- in a clear reference to the absence of activity by Russian oil companies after the U.S.-led invasion.

Putin thanked Blair for playing a leading role in preparing the agenda of the upcoming EU-Russia summit in London in October and praised Britain's efforts to toughen international anti-terrorism legislation.

Mary Altaffer / AP

Putin's signature on the convention, which was signed at UN headquarters.

On Thursday, Putin will outline Russia's positions on UN reform in an address to the UN General Assembly. World leaders on Friday will sign a declaration that originally called for sweeping reform to, among other things, empower the organization to tackle poverty and expand the Security Council.

The document has been significantly watered down to 35 pages of declarative statements.

In his UN speech, Putin will also voice concern that international terrorism could trigger a clash of civilizations, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Mayak radio on Monday.

"We must not allow terrorists to drive civilization-based wedges in the world after we have just overcome ideological divides," said Lavrov, a former UN ambassador who is accompanying Putin along with other senior officials.

Putin was to hold bilateral meetings with the leaders of China, Pakistan, Iran, Israel, India and Argentina on Wednesday and Thursday, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported.

Putin's most important bilateral meeting was set for Friday, when he is to meet with Bush to go over an agenda dominated by nonproliferation, the war on terror and energy issues.

Both during that meeting and at Security Council sessions, the U.S. side will try to convince Russia to agree to a resolution that would slap sanctions on Iran if it does not abandon its uranium enrichment program. Russian officials have already indicated that Moscow would not support a Security Council resolution to impose sanctions.

Putin and Bush are also to discuss Central Asia, Iraq and the Middle East, as well as to try to boost a stalled energy dialogue between their countries. Putin will meet with executives from leading U.S. oil companies on Friday. (See story, Front Page)

U.S. and Russian delegations are to hold consultations on cooperation in rescue and disaster relief operations and their space programs. Putin and Bush will brainstorm on how to circumvent a U.S. law to allow NASA to pay the Federal Space Agency to launch cargo and astronauts to the international space station, Kommersant reported.

The law restricts payments to Russia made in connection with the space station unless the United States confirms that Russia has not transferred banned technology to Iran in the previous 12 months.

Bush and Putin are to hold a joint news conference after their meeting.

Ed Betz / AP

Putin speaking to the Security Council as Prime Minister Tony Blair listens.

While voicing and advancing Russia's foreign policy positions, Putin will also work on his longtime ambition of improving Russia's image in less formal settings.

Putin on Thursday will inaugurate the broadcast of the Kremlin's new Russia Today satellite television channel at a New York event, where he will rub shoulders with senior U.S. media executives and meet the widow of U.S. investigative journalist Paul Klebnikov, who was gunned down in Moscow last year, according to Russian press reports. He will also grant an interview to Fox television, Kommersant reported, and attend a Thursday evening reception at the Russian Consulate.

While in New York, Putin will meet with officials from the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and visit their cathedrals in New York in an effort to unify the two churches, Kommersant said.

He will visit the Guggenheim Museum to open an exhibition of Russian art.

On Thursday, Putin will travel to Bayonne, New Jersey, to lay the cornerstone for a 112-ton monument to victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that was conceived by controversial Russian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli.

Bayonne accepted the monument, which purports to show a World Trade Center tower ruptured by a giant tear, after New York City and Jersey City declined. It will dominate the landscape at the former Military Ocean Terminal on the Bayonne Harbor, 8 kilometers southeast of Manhattan and across the Upper New York Bay from the city.