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Putin, Bush fail to break missile defence tension

by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Sept 7, 2007
US President George W. Bush and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin failed to make clear progress in talks Friday to defuse tensions over US missile defence plans that have angered Moscow.

The presidents met at a hotel in Sydney as 21 nations attending an Asia Pacific summit here agreed a common statement on climate change after intense wrangling between rich and emerging nations, a source at the talks said.

Before meeting Putin, Bush held talks with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun after which he said he would consider a formal peace deal to end the Korean war only after North Korea gives up nuclear weapons and programmes.

But it was the US leader's meeting with his Russian counterpart, which came after Putin signed a landmark deal allowing Australia to export uranium to Russia, that dominated the flurry of top level meetings in Australia.

Visibly grim after their hour-long meeting, Putin said the talks had been "above all related to missile defence."

But neither man gave any hint of coming any nearer on Washington's plans to deploy a missile shield in Central Europe which have provoked an increasingly tense standoff between the two sides.

The Russian leader said experts from both sides would meet again soon to inspect a Russian radar station in Azerbaijan that Moscow has proposed using as an alternative to the Central Europe sites.

Moscow says the US plans to deploy elements of a missile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic will upset the balance of power, while Washington insists it is aimed against potential attacks from Iran or North Korea, posing no threat to Russia.

The talks, which Bush called "both cordial and constructive," also touched on Iran's nuclear programme, Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organisation and environmental issues.

While the two men may not have made diplomatic breakthroughs, they could have a chance to untangle their lines in a wilder setting after Putin invited Bush to come fishing in Siberia.

In other developments around the summit, the top US envoy for North Korea announced that experts from China, Russia and the United States would go to North Korea September 11-15 to study how Pyonygang's nuclear facilities could be disabled.

"We want this disabling to take place by December 31st. So we have to look at our ideas for disabling against the actual facility," Christopher Hill said.

North Korea in February agreed to make a full declaration of all its nuclear programmes and to disable them in return for aid, security and diplomatic guarantees, notably normalisation of ties with Washington.

Nuclear deals were also on the agenda for Putin and host Prime Minister John Howard, who sought to ease fears that planned uranium sales to Russia posed a proliferation risk.

The Australian leader vowed that "any uranium that is sold to Russia will be sold under very strict safeguards."

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum delegates had been struggling to hammer out a statement on climate change, with emerging nations resisting Australia's plans to set clear goals on curbing emissions of greenhouse gases.

But a senior Southeast Asian official closely involved in the talks said late Friday that senior officials had finally agreed on a draft agreement to go to the leaders.

The draft refers only to "aspirational" goals to reduce emissions and affirms that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), which meets next in Bali in December, is the main forum for debate.

The Asia Pacific leaders are also expected to issue a statement calling for urgent action to break deadlocked World Trade Organisation talks on bringing down tariffs and other trade barriers.

Australia's largest city was tightly locked down ahead of the summit of leaders that formally gets underway Saturday, with the harbourside hub patrolled by 5,000 police and soldiers on land, sea and in the air.

A series of protests brought some light relief to proceedings, although there was a tense but brief standoff between police and demonstrators at one event.

One of the most watched was also the cheekiest -- anti-war activists making their point with a "21-bum salute," baring one posterior for every government at the summit.

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Russia-US talks on missile defence set for Paris
Moscow (AFP) Sept 6, 2007
Russian and US diplomats will meet in Paris on Monday to discuss Washington's plans for an anti-missile defence system in central Europe, a Russian foreign ministry official told AFP Thursday.

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