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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 November 2006, 17:11 GMT
US to back Russia's WTO entry bid
By Richard Galpin
BBC News, Moscow

President Bush shaking hands with President Putin
The agreement clears a hurdle allowing Russian WTO membership
President George W Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin have said they are to sign a deal on Russia's World Trade Organization (WTO) entry bid.

The news came at the end of a meeting in Moscow between the two leaders.

Mr Bush made a brief stopover in the Russian capital on the way to South East Asia, to attend an Asia-Pacific regional summit on Sunday.

A Kremlin spokesman said the agreement on US support for Russia's membership would be signed within days.

There were plenty of hugs and backslaps as Mr Putin and his wife met Mr Bush and the US First Lady, Laura, at one of Moscow's main airports.

Both leaders clearly wanted to give the impression of good relations, despite the number of problems between their two countries increasing in recent years.

Then they all disappeared into a VIP room for lunch and informal talks lasting about an hour-and-a-half.

Hurdle cleared

There were no formal statements afterwards, but a Kremlin spokesman confirmed Russia and the US would soon sign an agreement stating that Washington supports Russia's entry into the WTO.

This would remove one of the last major obstacles to Russia finally becoming a member of the WTO, although there are still other countries which also have to agree.

Also on the agenda at the Moscow airport meeting was the crisis over Iran's suspected nuclear programme.

Last week Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, was in Moscow for talks.

It is likely that President Bush wanted to know whether there would been any change in Iran's position - in particular, its rejection of calls to halt the enrichment of uranium.

Washington and Moscow disagree over how best to deal with Iran.

The Americans want to impose sanctions through a tough UN Security Council resolution and they are trying to get Russia to support them.

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