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Jerusalem Post (Israel)
November 25, 2001
Bush confident Putin will safeguard Russian Jews

WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush wrote to advocates of Russian Jews last week that he was confident the Russian government would safeguard religious freedom there.

Russian President Vladimir Putin made the pledge to Bush at their recent summit in the US. His promises followed similar pledges by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to Secretary of State Colin Powell in a letter earlier this month.

Ivanov and Powell exchanged letters to pave the way for the US to formally drop a legal impediment to Russia gaining permanent normal trade relations with the US.

Under the Jackson-Vanik amendment to the Trade Act of 1974 - lobbied for by Jewish American organizations - Russia needed to annually show it allowed free emigration before it could have normal trading relations with the US.

It has received a waiver for several years, but Russia wanted nonetheless to have its name formally deleted from a list of countries subject to the restriction.

In his letter to leaders of NCSJ: Advocates on Behalf of Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States, and Eurasia, Bush wrote that he and and Putin had "agreed that on the basis of the Russian government's consistent, nearly decade-long allowance of unfettered emigration, Russia merits permanent normal trade relations status."

"To this end, I intend to work with the 107th Congress to pass the necessary legislation for removing Jackson- Vanik requirements for Russia," Bush wrote.

Bush also said Putin "provided clear assurances" that his government would promote human rights and basic freedoms, and that Putin stated "anti-Semitism has no place in a modern Russia."

Bush said his administration was committed to working with Russia to safeguard religious liberty and the restitution of religious communal property, an issue that concerns advocates of Jews in Russia.

The Bush administration also released copies of the letters exchanged between Powell and Ivanov. In his letter to Powell, Ivanov welcomed the administration's decision to "seek full and final exemption" of Russia from the provisions of the Jackson-Vanik amendment.

"This step on your part would mean the elimination of one of the last vestiges of the so-called Cold War," he wrote.

Bush since taking office has been working to fashion a new relationship with Russia that would bury what he has described as another vestige of the Cold War, the Anti- Ballistic Missile Treaty, which is hampering his efforts to push forward with development of a national missile defense system.

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