Briefing with Stephen Hadley on Meeting of Bush and the Russian President (Excerpts)

May 9, 2005

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  • Russia

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MR. HADLEY: The events of the evening have concluded. As Dr. Rice said, the evening kind of confirmed the excellent relationship between these two men. The conversations were cordial, extensive, light-hearted at times, conducted in a very good atmosphere.

The two leaders had a private meeting, just the two of them plus translators. It went about 40 minutes. They discussed mostly -- a little bit about the Baltics and Georgia, talked a little bit about the President's speech that he gave in Latvia. There was then a press event, which you all saw. There was then a 45-minute extended meeting with Dr. Rice and myself on our side, and Foreign Minister Lavrov and National Security Advisor Igor Ivanov on their side joining with the two Presidents and the translators. And then there was a dinner tonight between the two couples. It was supposed to go an hour and 10 minutes; it went over two hours, involved dinner and also some -- seeing some of the facilities on the compound.

Dr. Rice talked a little bit about the discussions. Let me add just a little bit. President Putin, of course, has recently been to the Middle East, so he debriefed a little bit his trip; he'd met with Prime Minister Sharon, Prime Minister Abbas and other leaders. Then they talked a little bit about practical next steps for advancing the process of peace in the Middle East. They agreed on the need, obviously, to support Prime Minister Abbas, to support Prime Minister Sharon in his disengagement effort, and they talked specifically about the need for concrete steps to help the Palestinian Authority to fight terror, the importance of continuing the fight against terror in the Middle East.

There was a little discussion about Iran, and the President acknowledged the support that Russia had given in the process of trying to push Iran to the point where it would give up its nuclear aspirations, and particularly the two men indicated their mutual support for the negotiations being conducted by the EU-3. They also -- the President complimented President Putin on his state of the state speech here a week to 10 days ago, that talked extensively about democracy in Russia. And they also talked about U.N. reform, exchanged some ideas on where those proposals stand, and the two leaders agreed that the two countries needed, through their appropriate officials, to be in close discussion about U.N. reform as that process goes forward.

They also talked about the WTO and potential Russia accession to the WTO, and the ongoing negotiations between the United States and Russia on this subject. They affirmed the need for process. They each expressed confidence in each other's negotiators, Minister Gref and Rob Portman, and agreed that these two folks need to meet soon to try and get further progress towards a WTO agreement.

That's really the gist of what they talked about. I'd be glad to answer any questions.

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Q On the Iran issue, how hopeful is the President that EU-Iran talks will succeed? And if it doesn't, is the President willing to ask Russian help to get Iranian case to Security Council?

MR. HADLEY: Well, we, of course, are hopeful. We've tried to support the EU-3 Iran discussions with some of the things that were done right after the President returned from Europe. We've been skeptical all along as to whether it would work. That doesn't mean that we aren't hopeful, and that we don't support it. But, obviously, some skepticism is in order. As you may remember, one of the things that is in the letter of the EU-3 foreign ministers that went to the rest of the EU was a recognition that if those negotiations break down, or if the current suspension is lifted, that it would be a matter for the Security Council. And that's well-known. And I think we would hope that Russia would be supportive of that effort. But, again, that's a hypothetical at this point.

As a general matter, the Russians have been very supportive of the effort -- both supportive of what the EU-3 is negotiating with Iran, and also supportive in the discussions they have had directly with Iran about the Bushehr reactor program and the take-back of the fuel, and the effort to put some proliferation safeguards into whatever arrangement Russia and Iran come up with respect to Bushehr.

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