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Putin emerges from Bush's doghouse
By Steve Holland

EVIAN, France, June 1 (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush has let Russian President Vladimir Putin out of the doghouse, where French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder appear set for an extended stay.

The pecking order of the three main opponents to the U.S.-led Iraq war became apparent on Sunday when Bush had a warm meeting with Putin in St Petersburg.

By contrast, Bush's handshake with Chirac on arrival at the world leaders' summit in France was pleasant but formal, and he planned to leave the G8 meeting on Monday, rather than waiting until the end on Tuesday, in order to travel to the Middle East.

And while Bush exchanged pleasantries with Schroeder at a dinner in St Petersburg on Saturday night, nobody at the White House sees Bush warming to the German leader any time soon. No private meeting with Schroeder was scheduled for Evian, though the U.S. president will meet Chirac separately on Monday.

Bush was miffed that the three vowed to stop a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have authorised military force against Iraq and given Bush and his allies, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar broad, international support for the conflict.

The fallout over that debate hung like a bitter cloud over Evian, the posh spa resort on Lake Geneva where the Group of Eight nations are holding their annual summit.


There was plenty of backslapping when Bush and Putin met on Sunday in St Petersburg, with Bush referring to Putin as "my good friend" and inviting him to the presidential retreat at Camp David in September.

"I must say that the fundamentals between the United States and Russia turned out to be stronger than the forces and events that tested it," Putin remarked at a joint news conference.

Bush, a no-nonsense Texan who likes to portray issues in black and white rather than shades of grey, prides himself on developing friendly personal relationships with foreign leaders.

He felt betrayed that Schroeder ran a re-election campaign based on opposing the U.S. Iraq policy last year, after what U.S. officials said was a promise from Schroeder to stop.

U.S.-German relations were said to be "poisoned," and while they have returned to a suitable working level as befits allies, aides say Bush remains irked at Schroeder and do not see a thaw on the horizon.

Bush was in particular angered by Chirac for actively seeking to undermine U.S. efforts for U.N. backing on Iraq and for verbally slapping down Eastern European nations that sided with the United States.

Bush's national security adviser Condoleezza Rice told foreign journalists last week that what was particularly disappointing to the U.S. side was that "there were times that it appeared that American power was seen to be more dangerous than, perhaps, Saddam Hussein."

"We have been allies in great struggles in world wars. The United States gave its blood to liberate France. And perhaps Americans couldn't understand why it was not considered a worthy cause to liberate Iraq," she said.

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