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Bush hails 'new era' in relations with Russia

Bush and Putin
Bush and Putin held nearly two hours of face-to-face talks  

By CNN White House Correspondent Major Garrett

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (CNN) -- After his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. President George W. Bush says he believes both nations can forge a "new era" in relations.

After nearly two hours of face-to-face talks on Saturday, Bush said he felt he could "trust" Putin.

The leaders agreed to meet for summits in each country. Bush invited Putin to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, in the autumn. Putin returned the courtesy with an invitation to his home in Moscow.

They will also meet at the Group of Eight meeting in Genoa, Italy, next month and in Shanghai at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in October.

"I wouldn't have invited him to my ranch if I didn't trust him," Bush said at a joint news conference after the two spent 1 hour and 40 minutes in one-on-one talks -- more than twice the time originally scheduled. "We can make the world safer, more prosperous."

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CNN's Jill Dougherty reports on what Bush and Putin will likely discuss at the meeting (June 15)

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Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses questions regarding missile defence (English translation)
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President Bush comments on his meeting with Putin on Saturday
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Russia doubts U.S. line on NATO  
Jill Dougherty on Bush and Putin's meeting  

For his part, Putin said the "reality was better than the expectations" leading up to his first encounter with the new U.S. president.

"I think that we found a good basis to start building on our cooperation," Putin said.

The meeting was so candid and warm, Putin said, it should "put an end to these rumors" that the two men would never surmount differences on key issues.

But differences remain and were in no way obscured, both presidents said.

Senior U.S. officials said the disagreements over future development of a U.S. missile defense system remained just as large. Putin said the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty lies at the center of the "modern architecture" of arms control.

To proceed with advanced testing of a missile defense system, the United States would have to persuade Russia to accept significant changes in the ABM treaty -- signed with the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War -- or unilaterally abandon the treaty.

Bush said it was time for "a new approach to a new era," a sentiment he expressed with NATO leaders as he defended his push for a missile defense system that could protect the United States, Europe and Russia from the threat of the launch of a ballistic missile armed with a nuclear warhead or biological or chemical weapons.

After the meeting, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the ABM treaty was written "for a time of the red and blue lines," a reference to the Cold War color-coding U.S. military planners used to differentiate between NATO allies and the Warsaw Pact countries.

The thinking behind ABM, which viewed any defense against ballistic missiles as a way to give one nation an advantage in a nuclear war, must be "updated," he said.

Senior U.S. officials said Putin is "open" to continued dialogue on missile defense. To prove the point, both presidents assigned their two top diplomatic and military advisers to meet to discuss differences.

Bush and Putin plan to pursue discussion on regional issues. Some of the conflicts the two leaders mentioned were the Balkans, Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan, and Afghanistan.

"I have to say that this discussion showed that the differences in our approaches in the very fundamental areas are much less than that which unites us," Putin said.

Top Bush advisers also stressed cooperation on economic and trade issues. Bush said he will ask Commerce Secretary Don Evans and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill to lead discussions with Russia about new U.S. economic cooperation with Russia.

Bush endorsed Russia's ascension to the World Trade Organization, something Putin avidly seeks.

The body language between the two appeared genuinely comfortable. Bush said the talks never digressed into "diplomatic chit chat" and that during the talks he took a measure of Putin's soul, finding the Russian leaders "straight-forward and trustworthy."

"Mark me down as very pleased," Bush said at one point.

Putin said the new U.S. president understood Russia's history and found himself impressed with his global perspective on a number of issues. Significantly, Putin said it was "very important" for him to hear Bush say Russia was no longer an enemy.

Even so, Putin raised objections to the eastward expansion of NATO. In November of next year, NATO will expand its 19-member military alliance and Russia has concerns about the inclusion of several of the nine nations seeking membership.

But Bush restated his support for NATO expansion and said Russia should not fear the alliance.

• The White House

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