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Friday, 21 December, 2001, 18:33 GMT
UK and Russia unite against terror
Mr Putin and Mr Blair take questions from the press
The press conference was held at RAF Halton in Bucks
Britain and Russia have agreed to co-operate more closely in the fight against terrorism, with the formation of a new bilateral working group.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has been holding talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, described the working relationship between the two countries as "unprecedentedly close" since 11 September.

Mr Putin arrived earlier in London on Friday for two days of talks with Mr Blair on issues such as Nato, terrorism and the war in Afghanistan.

We can say that co-operation on intelligence since September 11 has been unprecedentedly close

Tony Blair
Later at a joint press conference, Mr Blair praised the part Russia had played in the international coalition, as well as the increasingly prominent role the country is playing on the world stage.

Following the talks, the two countries have agreed to share information between the foreign intelligence service MI6 sharing information with its equivalent in Moscow.

New roles

Mr Blair said there had been widespread acceptance of a new role for Russia within Nato, and that there would now be more detailed discussions on the prospect of this happening in the future.

Mr Blair said the two countries shared common interests and common goals both in terms of international security and international trade.

Russia is ready for such a relationship

Mr Putin on Nato alliance
He said he strongly supported Russia's membership of the World Trade Organisation, and wanted it to happen "as swiftly as possible".

The prime minister went on to say there was widespread agreement that conditions in Russia had been completely transformed, that the economic reforms were seen to be working and the country was eager to invest.

Mr Putin told the joint press conference that his talks with Mr Blair had been "very constructive".

He said two countries had not only understood the common threat of terrorism but the need to fight it together.

'Chance for change'

On Russia's proposed new relationship with Nato, Mr Putin said it was "one of the few realistic possibilities to change the situation in the world, with a view to creating a single security system in Europe".

"Russia is ready for such a relationship," said Mr Putin.

He added that his country was willing to accept a role as a part-time member of the alliance, if that was what was on offer.

"Russia has absolutely no claims on (Nato) defence policy but there are areas where we can act jointly," he said.

He went on to say he hoped Russia's ties with the EU should continue to develop dynamically in terms of both political dialogue and in terms of trade and economic relations.

Mr Putin, accompanied by wife Lyudmila, will be staying with Mr Blair at his official country residence Chequers, in Buckinghamshire for the duration of his visit.

The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"Relations with Russia have completely transformed"
Andrey Cherkasov of the Russian TV station NTV
"Blair was the author of the new initiative"
See also:

20 Dec 01 | UK Politics
War on Terror: 100 days
20 Dec 01 | South Asia
Green light for Afghan force
20 Dec 01 | UK Politics
UK hails anti-terror progress
17 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Blair pushes Russia-Nato ties
04 Oct 01 | Europe
Russia is 'safe partner' for West
20 Dec 01 | Americas
More groups join US terror blacklist
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