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Bush urges Hu and Putin on North Korea and Iran

HANOI (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush sought help from China and Russia on Sunday on thwarting the twin nuclear challenges of North Korea and Iran as security dominated his agenda at an Asia Pacific summit.

President Bush, Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and China's President Hu Jintao pose for the official photograph Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit wearing Vietnamese 'ao dai' silk tunics in Hanoi, November 19, 2006. REUTERS/Jim Young

Thousands of Vietnamese lined the streets of Ho Chi Minh City to greet Bush on his arrival on Sunday night from Hanoi, many waving, some cheering, almost all smiling, with children watching from atop their parents’ shoulders.

In Hanoi, Bush held separate talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Vladimir Putin, two key players in international efforts to get North Korea to give up nuclear weapons and prevent Iran from developing one.

The United States and Russia signed an agreement capping five years of work that blessed Russia’s long-sought entry into the World Trade Organization. Bush was clearly looking for Putin to return the favor by helping out on Iran.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Bush believed he was making progress in persuading Putin to back a strong U.N. resolution on Iran. The United States is pushing for U.N. sanctions.

Russia, one of the U.N.’s five permanent Security Council members, dislikes a European draft resolution and wants less restrictive measures with the aim of coaxing Tehran back to the negotiating table.

Asked whether the Russians were closer to cooperating after the talks, White House spokesman Tony Snow said he believed so, and that the Russians understood the need to send a clear message to Tehran.

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“The one thing they did talk about at some length was the clear security implications of Iran having a nuclear weapon, and President Putin made it clear that it had some impact on his own security,” Snow said.

The United States and its allies accuse Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian energy program, which Tehran denies.

CHINA AND NORTH KOREA

Bush talked to Hu about the twin nuclear challenges, with a focus on North Korea.

“China is a very important nation, and the United States believes strongly that by working together, we can help solve problems such as North Korea and Iran,” Bush told Hu.

Hu made no mention of North Korea in his remarks, but Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in the talks Hu had called for “wisdom and patience” in dealing with Pyongyang, whose October 9 nuclear test and July missile launches stunned Asia.

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Bush stressed the need for U.N. member states to comply with a U.N. Security Council resolution that bans trade of goods and transfer of funds to the North that could aid its nuclear arms programs.

The Chinese side expressed some caution about the resolution. “We don’t really think that sanctions are the purpose, rather it is the means. The U.N. Security (Council) resolution should not be randomly interpreted and should not be expanded,” Liu said.

David McCormick, an official of the White House National Security Council, said after the meeting that the leaders had agreed “on direction and next steps” on North Korea, but he declined to be more specific.

Bush and some others wanted APEC leaders to make a strong joint statement condemning North Korea’s actions and urging it to return to talks.

In the end, summit leaders did not put that in a written final communique, but said it in a verbal statement read out at a news conference after the summit.

Additional reporting by John Ruwitch

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