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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bush Downplays Russia Rift

U.S. President George W. Bush on Wednesday brushed aside strong criticism of U.S. policies by President Vladimir Putin, saying there were many issues on which the two countries could work together.

As examples, Bush told a news conference that the United States and Russia had been able to cooperate in efforts to rein in Iran's nuclear program and in the six-party North Korea nuclear disarmament talks.

Putin lashed out at U.S. foreign policy over the weekend in comments that reflected a growing chill in ties between the former Cold War foes, who are at odds over issues ranging from U.S. military plans for Europe to the state of democracy in Russia.

Bush acknowledged that U.S.-Russian disagreements persist surrounding NATO. "I tried to convince him that NATO is positive," that democracies on a country's borders are a "good thing to have," Bush said, referring to his Russian counterpart. "They tend not to fight each other."

In Moscow on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged the United States to promote a resolution to the standoff over Iran's nuclear program by showing the same "flexibility" that helped produce North Korea's agreement to halt its atomic programs, news agencies reported.

The remarks were the latest call for a softer U.S. stance on Iran from Russia, which has repeatedly warned that punishing Iran too harshly for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment would be counterproductive.

"I will note the efforts by the American side, perhaps in some way against its own will, making reasonable compromises with Pyongyang and by doing so allowing blockage of the six-nation talks to be removed," Interfax quoted Lavrov as saying.

"We would like to see the same flexibility ... in relation to the Iranian nuclear program, where probably something similar could be done -- focusing not on defending the prestige of one's position but on the basis of professional assessments," RIA-Novosti quoted him as saying during a flight from India to Abu Dhabi.