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Big issues on the summit menu

THE US and Russian Presidents George Bush and Vladimir Putin met on the afternoon of February 24 in Bratislava castle, Slovakia. The talks started at around 15:30 and are expected to last until 17:00.

Below is a list of topics expected to be discussed at the summit meeting, the news agency TASR reported.

Democracy: The US and other western countries have expressed concerns that Russian is backing away from democratic principles.

President Bush is likely going to open with this topic, as he implied at the beginning of this week in Brussels when he said that Moscow would have to renew its devotion to democracy.

The EU showed cautious support for his statements. Putin reacted by saying that democracy in Russia has to be adjusted to local reality.

Iran: Bush will try to persuade Putin that the Iranian nuclear programme is intended for the construction of a nuclear weapon. Russia is helping Iran to construct a nuclear power plant and believes Tehran's reassurances that it has no ambitions to create a nuclear bomb.

Bush stated on February 24 that he believed in diplomatic solutions to the Iranian problem and he believes in negotiations between the EU and Teheran.

Nuclear safety: According to US administration sources, both leaders will announce agreements in the field of nuclear facilities' safety.

According to US press reports the presidents will release a statement in which they commit themselves to speed up the process of the modernization of safety measures and Russian nuclear facilities' parts.

Both countries will also agree to cooperate in the case of a nuclear terrorist attack or emergency.

Syria: The Kremlin announced last week that it intends to sell Syria four modern anti-aircraft missiles despite US concerns that the technology might get into the hands of militants.

This week Bush called on Syria to stop the occupation of Lebanon.

Neighbouring countries: Bush will express concerns over the problematic relationships that some former Soviet republics and now EU members (Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia) have with Moscow.

From the other side, Bush can expect to hear of Russia's dislike of the growing influence of the US in other former Soviet republics, such as Georgia and Ukraine.

Chechnya: Although Bush is often under pressure to be stricter on Moscow's actions in Chechnya, he perceives the Russian operation as a fight against "international" terrorism.

WTO: Putin will try to acquire confirmation of US support for Russian efforts to become a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

On Monday Bush said that he supports Russian WTO membership but Moscow has to demonstrate that it has an open and liberalized economy.

Bilateral relations: Disagreements over democracy, the war in Iraq or the Iranian nuclear programme should not hurt strong bilateral relationships.

Both leaders call themselves friends and they realize that they have a duty to mutually cooperate in a global environment.

Bush and Putin met for the first time in 2001. The summit on February 24, 2005, is their 11th meeting.

Compiled by Spectator staff from press reports

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