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Putin, Bush Slated to Meet Today

Summit: At talks in Washington and Texas, the U.S. and Russian presidents are expected to discuss terrorism and American plans to build a missile defense system.


WASHINGTON — Russian President Vladimir V. Putin is arriving in Washington for his first official visit to the United States and for summit talks with President Bush, as the leaders of the world's major nuclear powers pursue a post-Cold War relationship.

Putin and Bush are scheduled to meet today at the White House, then resume their talks on terrorism, strategic nuclear arms and other issues Wednesday and Thursday at Bush's ranch near Crawford, Texas.

Putin left Moscow on Monday afternoon for the long flight to Washington shortly after an American Airlines A300 Airbus crashed after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Although the crash raised concerns that the United States again had been targeted by terrorists, Putin ruled out postponing his visit. U.S. officials said initial evidence indicated that the crash probably was not the result of terrorism.

"Work has to go ahead, and as far as we know the Americans are ready to proceed along the scheduled plan for this visit," Putin said as he boarded his aircraft in Moscow.

In addition to his talks with Bush, Putin is to deliver speeches in Washington, Houston and at the United Nations in New York. But the Russian government did not issue an official schedule for reasons of security.

Bush and Putin are expected to discuss U.S. plans to build a missile defense system that American officials acknowledge would violate the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty. Putin has been a strong advocate of maintaining the ABM pact, but U.S. officials hope to fashion an agreement at the summit that would finesse the issue.

Despite the ABM controversy, Bush and Putin are working on deep cuts in U.S. and Russian arsenals of offensive nuclear weapons, perhaps cutting total stocks to a level last seen 40 years ago--a time when Washington and Moscow were building up their doomsday weaponry as fast as science and economics would allow.

Bush and Putin also are scheduled to discuss the war on terrorism. But Russia already has pledged its support to the U.S. effort, so there is little expectation that the summit will produce a dramatic announcement on that subject.

By contrast, when Bush's father, former President George Bush, met the last Soviet leader, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, in 1990, the Soviet offer to support the U.S.-led military operation in the Persian Gulf War was a dramatic reversal of decades of ideological hostility.

Putin and Bush are scheduled to meet at the White House this morning and hold a joint news conference in the afternoon. Putin also plans to meet congressional leaders and deliver a speech at the Russian Embassy.

On Wednesday, Putin flies to Houston, where he will deliver a speech at Rice University. He also will meet with former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and city officials. Later in the day, Putin will head to the Bush ranch near Crawford, arriving in time for dinner.

Bush and Putin will wrap up their summit Thursday after breakfast at the ranch.

Putin is scheduled to travel to New York on Thursday for meetings with Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and Gov. George Pataki. He also plans to visit the ground zero site of the World Trade Center terrorist attack.

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