WASHINGTON – The United States and Russia, which both have felt the sting of terrorism, plan to exchange views and strengthen cooperation in countering it during talks this week in Moscow.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage will head the U.S. delegation, which departs Tuesday for the Russian capital and continues on to Kazakhstan.
Armitage plans to thank Kazak leaders in Astana for contributing troops to the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, the State Department said in announcing Armitage's trip.
Russian forces have been fighting Chechen rebels for much of the last decade. Russian President Vladimir Putin calls them terrorists and refuses to negotiate over their separatist demands.
But on Monday, the Kremlin-backed president of Chechnya, Alu Alkhanov, said he was open to negotiations with rebel leaders provided they could ensure their followers make good on any commitments made in peace talks.
The Bush administration, while sympathetic to Russia's struggle, especially after the 9-11 attacks on the United States, has counseled Moscow to talk to rebel leaders.
Putin, meanwhile, injected himself into the U.S. presidential campaign last week without actually backing President Bush or Sen. John Kerry.
He said terrorists in Iraq had as their goal derailing Bush's chances for re-election. And, he said, "if they achieve that goal, then that will give international terrorism a new impulse and extra power."
In the talks in Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak will co-chair with Armitage meetings of a joint group that looks for ways to counter terror.