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Official: Bush will visit Putin in Russia

  • Story Highlights
  • Official: Bush will visit coastal city of Sochi after stop in Croatia on April 5
  • National security adviser: Bush and Vladimir Putin to talk missile defense
  • U.S. trying to calm Russian fears of America installing interceptor missiles in Europe
  • Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates "made progress" in Moscow this month
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush plans to visit Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Russian coastal town of Sochi next month at Putin's invitation, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters Wednesday.

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President Bush with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Australia in 2007.

Bush intends to visit Sochi after a stop in Croatia on April 5, Hadley said.

"This is an opportunity for the two leaders to meet, assess what progress has been made and see whether we can come together with a framework that can ... consolidate areas where we're cooperating together, maybe resolve some outstanding issues such as missile defense, and provide a platform for the relationship of the two countries going forward," Hadley said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates went to Moscow, Russia, earlier this month to meet with Putin, he noted, and "progress was made." A Russian delegation was also visiting Washington on Wednesday, he said.

In the Moscow meetings, the United States attempted to allay Russian fears about America's plans to install interceptor missiles in eastern Europe. The Bush administration said the defense system, components of which are to be set up in Poland and the Czech Republic, is designed to defend against attacks from "rogue states," not from Russia.

In addition, America said the system would not be made operational unless Iran test-fires a missile that could threaten Europe.

Putin, who becomes prime minister this spring, proposed during a July visit with Bush in Maine, that the missile defense system be based in countries more friendly to Russia, such as Azerbaijan or even Iraq. The Russians also disagree with provisions of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START.

The United States has offered to give Russian monitors access to the missile sites and to negotiate limits to the system over time.

"The main issue there, is to find a way, in concrete terms, to reassure Russia that the radar and missile installation that is planned in Poland and the Czech Republic are, as we say, about potential threats coming to Europe, coming to Russia, if you will, from the Middle East, and are not aimed at Russia," Hadley said Wednesday.

"And we are trying to find a formula of measures which would give Russia some confidence on that, that would also be reciprocal with respect to facilities that Russia has offered up that might be part of an integrated missile defense system protecting Europe and Russia and are also respectful of the sovereignty of our Czech and Polish allies."

He said the administration would like to see the United States, Russia and Europe work together to create a system that would defend against threats from the Middle East.

"We are prepared to look at some transparency and confidence-building measures, again, respectful of the sovereignty of our Czech and Polish allies that, nonetheless, would give Russia some reassurance," he said.

After meeting with Rice and Gates earlier this month, Putin told reporters that a letter he received on the matter from Bush included some missile defense matters on which the countries might agree and "dot the i's," but includes other matters where there are widespread differences.

"There are still a lot of outstanding problems that need to be discussed," Putin said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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