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#4 - JRL 7266
Terror threat unites US and Russia
July 26, 2003

Top US and Russian officials have agreed in closed-door meetings outside Washington that terror threats unite the two nations despite their existing disagreements on foreign affairs, the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS reported Saturday.

US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage met First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov earlier this week for talks preceding a September summit of US President George W. Bush and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at Camp David.

The Russian foreign ministry issued a bland statement after the meetings, saying only that issues of security in the Central Asian region had been the talks' focus. But Trubnikov -- a former chief of Russia's foreign intelligence agency -- later told ITAR-TASS the two sides agreed they were bound by the threat of international terror attacks, and would cooperate closely to fight them.

"The threat of terrorism is at the center of the Russia-US dialogue," he told the Russian news agency.

Trubnikov added that intelligence sharing was one of the main topics he and Armitage discussed, ITAR-TASS reported, without going into further details.

"That is the very direction in which we would like to develop mutual understanding and trust," Trubnikov said.

He added that the two sides "have developed a climate of trust" in how to assess and handle conflicts ranging from those in Afghanistan to the Balkans region.

Russia had volunteered to assist the United States in intelligence and surveillance work in the Afghan campaign, despite some stiff opposition within more hawkish Russian military circles.

The move was officially sanctioned by Putin, who then developed a closer friendship with Bush until their falling out over the war in Iraq -- where Russia had massive oil interests.

In this week's US talks, Russia was represented by members from the Federal Security Service (FSB, former KGB), the Russian foreign intelligence agency, foreign and defense ministry representatives, as well as officials from the atomic energy ministry, ITAR-TASS said.

Although the delegation's members were not named, the lineup suggested a serious dialogue on intelligence sharing between Moscow and Washington.

The meeting had not been announced in advance in Moscow, and its details have not appeared on state-run television, which now dominates Russia.

There was no immediate reaction from Washington on the talks.

While overwhelmed by conflicts in Iraq and North Korea, the talks were officially labelled as the tenth meeting between the two sides in the fight on terrorism.

Neither ITAR-TASS nor the foreign ministry statement indicated that either Iraq or North Korea were discussed in the meetings.

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