Iran General NewsBush, Putin confer by phone on Hamas, Iran

Bush, Putin confer by phone on Hamas, Iran

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AP: President Bush emphasized the need for the radical movement Hamas to renounce violence since winning Palestinian parliamentary elections during a telephone conversation Saturday with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Associated Press

By JOHN HEILPRIN

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Bush emphasized the need for the radical movement Hamas to renounce violence since winning Palestinian parliamentary elections during a telephone conversation Saturday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Bush took the call from Putin, lasting little more than 15 minutes, in the cabin of Air Force One and “reiterated the importance of the Quartet statement, which calls for Hamas to renounce violence, recognize Israel and disarm,” White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.

The Bush administration, the Europeans, the United Nations and Russia – the so-called Quartet of Mideast negotiators devoted to peacemaking – have agreed not to help Hamas.

Bush and Putin also discussed the continuing conversations the Russians are having with the regime in Iran about the threat posed by Iran’s disputed nuclear program, McClellan said, declining to elaborate.

The call took place as Bush returned to Washington from Pakistan.

In Moscow, the Kremlin press service said, “Putin and Bush agreed to continue coordination on this and other vital issues on the international agenda including the forthcoming visit of the Russian foreign minister to Washington.”

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov heads to Washington on Monday for talks with Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other officials.

Lavrov’s trip comes as U.S. officials have become increasingly open in their criticism of Russia’s democratic credentials and Moscow’s use of political and economic pressure on former Soviet republics such as Georgia and Ukraine. The close partnership Bush and Putin forged after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks has faded amid the continuing disagreements.

Bush has been dealing with the potential consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran, courting nations such as Russia and China that might help with long-term containment if Iranian uranium enrichment goes ahead despite other international efforts.

Hamas’ political chief, Khaled Mashaal, was visiting Moscow at Putin’s invitation. The Russians also played host to the top Iranian nuclear negotiator this past week, attempting to persuade Tehran to end its uranium enrichment and instead rely on a joint enrichment facility that Russia would create.

Mashaal, whose group is considered a terrorist organization by the Bush administration, said Russia could be a major force in promoting Middle East stability.

Russia and the other Quartet nations are withholding international recognition from Hamas until it eases its radical opposition to Israel. Mashaal said Hamas would not consider recognizing Israel.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the initial close cooperation between Bush and Putin has declined due to disagreements over Putin’s commitment to democratic establishments and his exertion of political and economic pressure on former Soviet republics.

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