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Bush, Putin to Meet in Early July
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With US-Russian relations under heavy strain, President George W. Bush and President Vladimir Putin will meet July 1-2 in a US sea resort for a wide-ranging discussion of world affairs, the Bush administration officials said Wednesday.

It's an opportunity for him and President Putin to continue what is always, for the two of them, candid and very honest conversations about things that matter," Bush spokesman Tony Snow said.

The two also will see each other next week in Heiligendamm, Germany, during the annual Group of Eight (G8) summit of industrialized nations.

The US meeting will be at the oceanfront compound of Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush, at Kennebunkport, Maine, in the far northeastern United States.

The session comes at a time when many experts say relations between the two nations are at their lowest point since the Soviet era.

On Tuesday, Putin warned that a planned US missile shield for Europe would turn the region into a "powder keg."

Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have tried to reassure the Russians that the missile system is aimed at preventing attack against the United States or Europe not by Russia but by an antagonistic state such as Iran or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Washington and Moscow also are at odds over Kosovo, a province of Serbia that is under the administration of the United Nations and NATO. Russia says a Western-backed draft UN resolution that would endorse supervised independence for the Serbian province is unacceptable.

Bush and Putin will discuss Iran, civil nuclear cooperation, missile defense and other issues, Snow said.

"Cooperation between the United States and Russia is important in solving regional conflicts, stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction and combating terrorism and extremism," Snow said in announcing the visit.

Asked why Bush chose to hold the meeting at his father's house in Maine, Snow said, "Why not? It's a good place to have it."

Bush also has met with Putin at the presidential retreat at Camp David in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains north of Washington. Putin also was the first head of state to visit Bush's ranch in Texas in November, 2001. "You only invite your friends into your house," Bush said then.

(China Daily via agencies May 31, 2007)

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