US President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a landmark treaty yesterday to slash their stock of nuclear warheads by two-thirds.
The treaty, hailed as the centerpiece of a four-day summit between the former Cold War foes, is the first nuclear disarmament pact signed by the United States and Russia since January 1993.
But their summit, Bush's first on Russian soil, was overshadowed by US concerns over a nuclear power plant Russia is building in Iran which Washington says could put weapons of mass destruction into the hands of a state it accuses of sponsoring terrorism.
Speaking at a Kremlin news conference during a four-day summit, Bush said he had had thorough discussions with Putin about Russia's dealings with the Islamic republic, which Washington regards as a sponsor of terrorism.
"We will work closely with each other on this important issue," he added.
Putin denied US charges, however, that Russian help to Iran to build a nuclear power reactor at Bushehr -- a lucrative contract worth an estimated US$800 million -- would help it secure weapons of mass destruction.
And he pointedly countered that Washington had been involved in a similar deal with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"Cooperation between Russia and Iran is not of a character that would undermine the process of non-proliferation," he declared.
In their talks, the two leaders affirmed their commitment yesterday to international talks on Middle East peace in the next few months.
But a statement issued at the summit in Moscow by the two leaders gave no details and was couched in vague language.
However, Washington has tried to lower expectations, especially in view of Israel's refusal to talk to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.
(China Daily May 25, 2002)