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Putin demands early Iraq elections

By CNN Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty

Putin is calling for a rapid transfer of power in Iraq.

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MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a telephone call with U.S. President George Bush, has called for "the earliest possible elections" in Iraq.

Putin, according to his press service, also urged the "transfer of power to a new Iraqi leadership that is recognized by the whole people."

Russia has consistently pushed for U.N. involvement in Iraq and a rapid transfer of political power to the Iraqi people.

The press service also said that Bush "praised Russia's role" in Georgia, where the former president, Eduard Shevarnadze, stepped down in the face of massive street demonstrations sparked by fraudulent parliamentary elections.

Bush, the press service said, praised Russian efforts to prevent the revolution from degenerating into violence.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov flew to the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, during the disturbances to mediate between Shevarnadze and the opposition at a critical and dangerous moment.

Both presidents, according to the press service, urged international monitoring of the coming presidential and parliamentary elections in Georgia, scheduled for January 4, 2004.

Putin also informed Bush of a Russian initiative to settle the conflict between Moldova and the breakaway Transdniester region.

The two leaders expressed satisfaction with Russian-U.S. relations this year since Putin visited the United States.

They noted in particular contacts between Russian and U.S. government agencies and ministries which, they said, have helped to put their agreements into practice.

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