Bush and Putin - No missile agreement yet

Friday, November 16, 2001

CRAWFORD, Texas -- President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin failed to resolve their dispute over U.S. missile shield plans Thursday but pledged on a harmonious final day of summitry to fight terrorism and deepen U.S.-Russian ties.

"Our differences will not divide us," Bush told hundreds of students and townspeople in a steamy high school gym.

"We have a difference of opinion," the president said at a question-and-answer session with students. "But ... our relationship is strong enough to endure this difference of opinion."

Putin reaffirmed his opposition to anti-missile tests that would violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. But he also said that, no matter what Bush does, "under no circumstances could it lead to any tension in the relations between Russia and the United States."

U.S. officials said they viewed the remark as a signal that Putin won't try to stand in the way of upcoming missile tests. That understanding, however, fell far short of a formal deal to make the ABM flexible enough to allow testing, which was Bush's hope.

In the midst of the fight against terrorism, both leaders seemed to push the missile defense issue down the road.

"We shall continue our discussions," Putin said.

Bush announced that he will visit Russia next year. Aides said the trip might offer a fit setting to resolve the ABM debate.

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