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U.S./Russia: Bush, Putin Agree To Reduce Arms

St. Petersburg, 1 June 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush held an informal summit in the Russian city of St. Petersburg today, during which they signed and exchanged ratification documents putting into effect a strategic nuclear weapons reduction treaty. The treaty, which goes into effect today following the two presidents' signatures, will cut Russian and U.S. nuclear warheads on active deployment by two-thirds, to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads on each side by the year 2012.

Bush and Putin both emphasized that the strategic partnership between the United States and Russia remains healthy despite recent disagreements over Iraq and continuing sparring over the issue of Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran.

Putin said bilateral ties are "stronger" than the events that had tested them. He pledged to cooperate with the United States to halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction. But Putin defended Moscow's trade ties with Iran, including its construction of a civilian nuclear power station in the country:

"As concerns Iran, and I spoke about this completely openly today, we are against using nuclear programs, or anything else, as an instrument of unfair competition against our companies on the Iranian market," Putin said.

Both leaders agreed to expand bilateral channels of communication at all levels of government and to pursue improved economic ties as well as joint efforts in the global fight against terrorism. Bush also invited Putin to visit the Camp David retreat outside Washington in September.