Russia's Putin says would be pleased to meet Obama

ULAN BATOR (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin answered with a “why not?” when asked on Wednesday if he would meet U.S. President Barack Obama during his planned visit to Russia this summer.

Obama will make his first visit to Russia as U.S. President from July 6-8 for talks with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev as part of diplomatic efforts to reset troubled relations between Washington and Moscow.

They hope to overcome rows about NATO expansion and U.S. anti-missile defense plans that have brought relations to a post Cold War low and continue to fester, undermining declarations from both sides that they want to improve ties.

Putin stepped down as president in May 2008, but became on prime minister when his close associate Dmitry Medvedev was inaugurated as president.

“I have not spoken yet to diplomats, perhaps if they coincide in time, why not? I would be pleased to meet him but Obama is the partner of the Russian president,” Putin said in Mongolia’s capital, Ulan Bator, where he was holding talks.

Many Russian analysts speculate that Putin, not Medvedev, remains the real center of power in Moscow.

Writing by Conor Sweeney; Editing by Matthew Jones