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Wednesday, 3 October, 2001, 00:57 GMT 01:57 UK
Russia stands by West in war on terror
President Putin (centre) and Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt (right)
Putin called for a united effort against terrorism
President Putin has said Russia "needs no proof of the guilt of Bin Laden" in the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington.

Speaking on a visit to Belgium, Mr Putin voiced his strongest support yet for the American-led coalition against terrorism.

He said the fight against terrorism would only be effective "if we unite the efforts of the entire international community".

Mr Putin said Russia was ready to work closely with the West by "profoundly" changing its relations with Nato and the European Union's military bodies.

The Russian leader compared international terrorism to a bacteria, which, he said, "adapts to the organism bearing it".

No proof needed

Mr Putin, who is in Brussels for meetings with European Union and Nato leaders, told reporters: "For us it is already clear. The only thing we do not know is the exact role he (Bin Laden) played (in the terror attacks on America).

Osama Bin Laden
Russia says it does not need proof of Bin Laden's guilt
The Russian president criticised Saudi Arabia for refusing to let the US launch attacks against Afghanistan from bases on its territory.

"It's not a question of soldiers preparing strikes against Muslims but rather of soldiers preparing strikes against terrorists," he said.

After meeting the Belgian Prime Minister, Guy Verhofstadt, Mr Putin said he wanted to see closer military co-operation with Nato and the EU.

"We are ready to strengthen our co-operation with Nato and European military structures, to give a new quality to our relationship," he said.

The BBC's Janet Barrie in Brussels says the EU and Washington are hoping in particular for close co-operation with Russian intelligence agencies.

Closer co-operation

On Wednesday, Mr Putin will meet Nato Secretary-General Lord Robertson.

As well as military ties, economic co-operation will also feature strongly at the talks, which were planned before the attacks on New York and Washington.

Nato soldiers
Putin wants closer co-operation with Nato
This visit by Mr Putin could be the first step towards genuine closer co-operation between Russia and the West.

A desire for this has been the clear message coming from Moscow since the attacks on the US last month.

The international situation - and Russia's determination to be seen to be on the side of the US-led alliance - dictates that the fight against terrorism is the first item on the agenda of the summit.

The European side is hoping for better communications with Russian intelligence authorities and is offering to help with border security and the fight against the illegal arms trade.

BBC Europe correspondent Justin Webb says President Putin is likely to try to persuade EU leaders that they, in turn, must be more willing to accept that Russia needs the freedom to take what actions it deems necessary in its ongoing battle against rebels in Chechnya.

Although the European Commission has said that nothing has changed in its view of the Chechnya issue, last week German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said the Chechen conflict might have to be re-evaluated in the light of what had happened in America.

The BBC's Stephen Dalziel
"Russia is ready to give its full support to the US led alliance "
See also:

01 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Schroeder urges EU unity in terror fight
25 Sep 01 | Europe
A significant step for Russia
23 Feb 01 | Europe
Russia targets UK Chechens
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