MOSCOW April 7 —
U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice told President
Vladimir Putin and other top officials Monday that the United States
was committed to its partnership with Russia in spite of the two
nations' sharp differences over the war in Iraq, a senior U.S.
During a 24-hour visit, Rice met with Russian Security Council
chief Vladimir Rushailo, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Defense
Minister Sergei Ivanov and Putin's chief of staff, Alexander
Voloshin. She and the two Ivanovs also met with Putin, a senior U.S.
Rice stressed the importance of dialogue on post-conflict Iraq
and "the need to find practical solutions to humanitarian aspects
and the broader reconstruction of the country," the diplomat
The diplomat also said that Rice and the Russians had discussed
discussed Sunday's incident in which a convoy evacuating the Russian
ambassador and other diplomats from Baghdad came under fire. Russia
has not blamed the United States for the incident, but the
ambassador, Vladimir Titorenko, said Monday that U.S. forces fired
on the convoy.
The United States has assured the Russians that no harm was
intended but has not accepted blame for the incident, in which the
Russian Foreign Ministry said at least four diplomats were wounded,
the diplomat said.
"We don't take responsibility," the diplomat said, adding that
the convoy was "in the wrong place at the wrong time."
On the eve of Rice's trip, U.S. President George W. Bush spoke
with Putin by phone. The two leaders emphasized the need to continue
the two countries' political dialogue despite differences over Iraq,
according to the Kremlin press service.
Putin has strongly condemned the war in Iraq, but he tempered his
tone in several public statements last week, saying that a U.S.
defeat would not be in Russia's interests. He said Saturday that the
Kremlin would urge Russian lawmakers to ratify a key nuclear arms
reduction treaty with the United States, which the lower house of
parliament had postponed indefinitely last month as a sign of
protest ahead of the war.
Some observers say the change in tone reflects Russia's hope of
winning a role in Iraq's postwar reconstruction, as well as its
desire to prevent further damage to ties with the United States.
U.S.-Russian relations had been bolstered by Putin's strong support
for the U.S. war in Afghanistan.
Amid the worst strain in years, Washington accused Russian
companies of shipping military equipment to Iraq, charges that
Moscow angrily denied. Russia, in turn, fumed at U.S. spy plane
flights over the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia, near its southern
|Russian President Vladimir
Putin, center, answers a question as Defence Minister Sergei
Ivanov, right, and Commander-in-Chief of Space Forces general
Anatoly Perminov listen during a short briefing at the Space
Force headquarters in Moscow, Saturday, April 5, 2003. Russian
President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that his administration
would urge lawmakers to ratify a key nuclear arms reduction
treaty with the United States despite tensions over the war in
Iraq. (AP Photo/Sergei Ilnitsky,
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