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Last Updated: Monday, 15 October 2007, 15:16 GMT 16:16 UK
'Plot' overshadows Putin summit
By Steven Rosenberg
BBC News, Berlin

Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel
The meeting highlighted Germany and Russia's growing trade ties
Even before it began, this Russian-German summit was overshadowed by one question: would he or wouldn't he?

Would President Vladimir Putin fly on to Iran, as planned, or would he cancel at the last minute and go back home?

You could understand if Mr Putin did decide to change his travel plans - Russia's secret services had supposedly uncovered a plot to assassinate the Kremlin leader in Iran.

A report about it had popped up on a Russian news agency on Sunday - unsourced, with frustratingly few details, and adding the sombre line that Mr Putin had been informed.

Then the confusion began.

A Kremlin spokesman announced he had no information that Mr Putin's trip to Iran was off.

A few hours later, the same spokesman said he had no information that Mr Putin's trip was on.

Constant threat

Mr Putin himself was slow to unmuddy the waters.

On arriving in Wiesbaden on Sunday he refused to comment on the alleged plot. He said nothing about it this morning, either.

After being received with military honours, he hurried off with Chancellor Angela Merkel to the Russian-German Forum.

But at the concluding press conference, the Russian president finally restored clarity. He would go to Iran. After all, Mr Putin said, if he listened to all the advice his security services gave him, he would never leave home.

And what about the summit, an event which ended up being pushed out of the headlines by all this talk of terror plots and assassinations.

Well, as expected, the meetings here did little to resolve the really thorny issues which divide Russia and the West: questions like what to do about Iran's nuclear programme, Kosovo and the state of democracy in Mr Putin's Russia.

But it did highlight the booming trade relations between Russia and Germany - the economic ties which grow stronger, despite political differences between the two leaders.

The details surrounding the 'plot'

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