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U.S.-Russia Nuclear Cooperation Possible

Moscow would have to pressure Iran. Bush and Putin will talk outside the G-8 summit.

July 09, 2006|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Bush will pursue a nuclear cooperation agreement when he meets with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin next week during a summit of industrialized nations in St. Petersburg, Russia, the White House said Saturday.

But the U.S. will only make such a deal if Russia helps pressure Iran to abandon any nuclear weapons ambitions, said National Security Council spokesman Frederick L. Jones.

"We have made clear to the Russians that for an agreement on peaceful nuclear cooperation to go forward, we will need Russia's active cooperation in blocking Iran's attempt to obtain nuclear weapons," Jones said.

The two presidents will announce the start of negotiations when they meet outside the Group of 8 summit, scheduled for July 15 to 17, the White House confirmed.

Nuclear cooperation between the two countries has stalled for more than a decade because of Washington's objections to Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran, including construction of an atomic power plant in Bushehr, Iran.

The Bush administration's willingness to reverse course and pursue a nuclear cooperation agreement reflects the U.S. view that Moscow is now a partner, rather than a hindrance, in the effort to persuade Tehran to drop nuclear weapons ambitions.

The White House sees an agreement with Russia as a win-win situation -- despite concerns that Putin is backtracking on democratic advances and that Russian nuclear material might not be secure, and despite the fact that Moscow has so far opposed imposing sanctions on Iran if it refuses to abandon suspected nuclear weapons plans.

"Such an agreement would benefit both the United States and Russia, and indeed the world, by enabling advances in and greater use of nuclear energy," Jones said.

The two leaders, who have promoted nuclear energy as a clean alternative, have made proposals on providing nuclear power to developing countries while building in safeguards for nonproliferation of weapons.

Bush wants the use of nuclear power increased, especially in developing countries, to reduce the global demand for oil. Russia, meanwhile, sees a lucrative market in helping countries to establish such nuclear technology.

Early this year, Bush introduced his Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, which would provide fuel to countries for power generation only.

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