In a joint statement on Thursday issued by US President George Bush and Vladimir Putin in the Slovakian capital Bratislava, the two leaders said the goal of the agreement was to "counter the evolving terrorist threats".

   

On the WTO, the two leaders said they had instructed their trade ministers to accelerate bilateral negotiations to complete talks on Russia's entry into the WTO this year.

  

"We will work to identify areas for progress in our bilateral negotiations that will give momentum to Russia's accession to the WTO and to Russia's economic reform programme," they said.

 

Global measures

   

They vowed to work together on international measures to protect nuclear material and to share information on how to best improve security at nuclear facilities.

   

"We will work to identify areas for progress in our bilateral negotiations that will give momentum to Russia's accession to the WTO..."

Joint statement

"Building on our earlier work, we announce today our intention to expand and deepen cooperation on nuclear security with the goal of enhancing the security of nuclear facilities in our two countries and, together with our friends and allies, around the globe," they added.

 

They said they would convene this year a senior-level nuclear security workshop to foster disciplined, well-trained and responsible custodians and security personnel and well-maintained security systems.

   

They also will continue to work jointly to develop low-enriched uranium fuel for use in any US- and Russian-designed research reactors in third countries now using high-enriched uranium fuel.

 

Nuclear weapons

  

Later, at a press conference, Bush said he agreed with Putin that Iran and North Korea should not have nuclear weapons.

    

Bush (L) told Putin they had more
in common than disagreements

"We agreed that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon," Bush said. He gave no details.  

 

Bush also said he frankly told Putin about Western concerns about the course of Russian democracy, but that the US and Russia had more in common than what they disagreed on.    

 

Asked what response he got from Putin about democracy, Bush said: "All I can tell you is he said 'yes meant yes' when we talked about values that we share."

 

Putin response

   

Putin responded by saying Russia made a decision to become a democratic state 14 years ago and would never return from that path.

   

"Russia has made its choice in favour of democracy," he said. "This is our final choice and we have no way back. There can be no return to what we used to have before."

   

Aljazeera correspondent Akram Khuzam reporting from Bratislava said the venue of the meeting was a reflection of close US ties with Slovakia which has sent troops to Iraq for demining operations.

 

Quoting observers, Khuzam said the summit took place in the context of differences between Russia and the US, particularly after Moscow reaffirmed its nuclear cooperation with Iran and its intention to sell mobile anti-aircraft missile systems to Syria.