Obama met Gorbachev in run-up to Medvedev talks

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev gives a speech during the 'Cinema For Peace 2009' charity gala at the 59th Berlinale film festival in Berlin February 9, 2009. REUTERS/Jens Kalaene/Pool

MOSCOW (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama has held talks with former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, in the latest sign of Washington’s efforts to “press the reset button” on ties with Russia.

Gorbachev met Obama and Vice President Joe Biden -- who coined the “reset” phrase -- in Washington last Friday, said Gorbachev’s spokesman, Konstantin Petrenko. He gave no details of the discussion.

In Washington, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was pressed at a news conference about why the meeting between Obama and Gorbachev was not previously disclosed and did not appear on Obama’s official daily schedule.

“The president tends to roam around the larger (White) House and sometimes walks into meetings that weren’t previously on his schedule,” Gibbs said.

He said Biden and Gorbachev had discussed ways of reducing their countries’ respective nuclear arsenals, an issue Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev would talk about when they met in London on April 1.

Visits by veteran politicians have been used by both Russia and the United States to test the waters before the two leaders meet for the first time on the eve of a G20 summit in London. A delegation led by former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger visited Russia last week and met Medvedev.

Bilateral ties worsened sharply last year, with the two countries at odds over NATO expansion, U.S. plans for a missile shield in Eastern Europe, and Russia’s war with Georgia.

Reporting by Aydar Buribayev, writing by Conor Sweeney in Moscow and Ross Colvin in Washington