Putin, queen reach out on Iraq
EDINBURGH, Scotland -- Continuing his state visit to the UK, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been touring the capital of Scotland after he and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II sought to heal wounds from the Iraq war.
Putin and his wife, Lyudmila, were touring Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse Wednesday before returning to London in the evening for a banquet at Guildhall.
He arrived in London Tuesday for the first state visit to Britain by a Russian leader in more than 125 years. (Full story)
In her official welcoming speech at Buckhingham Palace, the queen said: "It is no secret that there were significant differences between our two countries earlier this year on how best to handle Iraq."
Russia opposed the U.S.-led war on Iraq, which Britain supported.
"But we are now able to look forward together, firmly in agreement on the route we have decided in the United Nations, although the tragic loss of British lives today reminds us all of the difficulties to be faced. (British fatalities)
"But as we look ahead, we know that our long-term partnership is of profound importance to both of us."
Putin opened his remarks with a few sentences in English to return the sentiment: "We would like to express to her majesty and the people of the United Kingdom our sincere condolences for the loss of the British soldiers in Iraq.
"It's clear for everyone that in spite of the differences that existed before today, we need to act jointly."
While in Edinburgh, Putin was also expected to visit the Signet Library in city's Parliament Square, where he was due to address an audience from Scotland's scientific, academic, business, medical, administration and arts communities.
Putin's wife meanwhile was scheduled to visit the National Museum of Scotland, later joining her husband and Britain's Prince Andrew to view the Faberge Exhibition at Holyrood Palace.
Scotland's First Minister Jack McConnell was expected to welcome Putin at the Signet Library.
Over the weekend, members of the Scottish Parliament called on McConnell to raise the issue of alleged human rights abuses against Chechens when he meets Putin.
Glasgow MSPs Nicola Sturgeon and Rosie Kane lodged two motions expressing concerns over reports of human rights abuses by members of the Russian army in the war-torn breakaway republic.
Amnesty International has reported claims of war crimes by the Russian army, including extra-judicial executions, torture, rape and "disappearances" of Chechens.