Putin: Summit Made 'Great Progress'

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that his summit with President Bush made "great progress" in resolving key differences in relations between the countries.

Speaking to reporters at Tsarskoye Selo, the palatial 18th century complex outside St. Petersburg that was the summer residence for Russia's royals, Putin said he hoped the meetings with Bush would help remove obstacles to further cooperation, such as ratifying the 1996 treaty banning nuclear tests and repealing the Jackson-Vanik law that restricts U.S.-Russian trade.

Putin stressed the importance of the agreement signed in the Kremlin on Friday that requires each country to cut nuclear arsenals to 1,700 to 2,200 warheads from the 6,000 each is now allowed.

"That we reached agreement on the key issues and that we signed these documents, this is great progress," Putin said, responding to a question posed in English.

"We have the right to fully consider this visit a success," Putin said.

Putin said the treaty "gives the right, true signal for the direction of cooperation," including in the area of containing the threat from threshold nations that aspire to have nuclear weapons capacity.

Putin spoke moments after Air Force One carrying Bush flew above the vast grounds of the palace where Putin was later playing host to visiting Finnish President Tarja Halonen.

Demonstrating that he appears to have greatly improved his English, Putin waved at one of his aides to refrain from translating the treaty question but answered in Russian.

Putin appeared upbeat about the summit, noting that just a year ago when summit preparations began that Washington and Moscow had been at odds over nuclear weapons reductions and other issues.

"On the key issues our positions were either very far apart or were exactly opposite," Putin said, adding that in the last year experts on both sides "managed to bring the two sides closer together to move in a positive direction and finally reach agreement."

The agreement signed at the summit to make huge cuts in both sides' nuclear weapons arsenal formed a good basis for further progress, Putin said, speaking after saying goodbye in St. Petersburg to Bush, who was heading to France.

Turning to economics, Putin expressed disappointment that the U.S. Congress has failed so far to repeal the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment, which links privileges coveted by Moscow to the right of Jews to emigrate.

"Of course, we are not thrilled that this didn't happen," Putin said. However, Putin said that he and Bush had done a lot to "create the basis for movement" for removal of what for Russia is a serious irritation.

Putin expressed satisfaction that the United States was seriously taking into consideration those problems which Russia feels should be on the front burner.

Putin has been accused by his opponents of giving in to the United States repeatedly on key issues without getting much in return.

"Our American partners pay attention to our concerns and respect them," Putin said.