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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 March 2008, 20:17 GMT
Bush and Putin to meet next week
President George Bush (26/3/08)
George Bush will discuss missile defence with President Putin
US President George W Bush has accepted an invitation to meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, next week in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Mr Bush said they would discuss American plans to site a missile defence system in Eastern Europe.

They will meet after next week's Nato summit in Bucharest, Romania.

Russia has strongly criticised the US proposals, which would see interceptor missiles based in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic.

'Optimistic'

"President Putin has invited me to go to Sochi and it's to discuss the strategic agreement, a crucial part of which is missile defence," Mr Bush told journalists in Washington.

He said he was optimistic they would reach a deal and described the meeting, scheduled for 6 April, as a follow-up to recent high level discussions in Moscow.

US missile defence graphic

Last week US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defence Secretary Robert Gates held talks with senior officials in the Russian capital.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov afterwards told the Izvestiya newspaper that the US had agreed to allow Moscow to monitor the missile defence system.

The US says the system is needed to counter a potential threat from Iran, but Moscow fears it could be used against Russia.

Next week's meeting is likely to be the last between the two presidents, since Mr Putin's successor, Dmitry Medvedev, will take office in May.



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