Los Angeles Times

Paul Wong
Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses Russian army commanders at the Defense Ministry in Moscow yesterday.<br><br>AP PHOTO

WASHINGTON Russian President Vladimir Putin is arriving in Washington, D.C., for his first official visit to the United States and summit talks with President Bush as the leaders of the world”s major nuclear powers pursue a post-Cold War relationship.

Putin and Bush are scheduled to meet today at the White House, then resume their talks on terrorism, strategic nuclear arms and other issues tomorrow and Thursday at Bush”s ranch near Crawford, Texas.

Putin left Moscow yesterday afternoon for the long flight to Washington shortly after an American Airlines A300 Airbus crashed after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Although the crash raised concerns that the United States again had been targeted by terrorists, Putin ruled out postponing his visit. U.S. officials said initial evidence indicated that the crash probably was not the result of terrorism.

In addition to his talks with Bush, Putin is to deliver speeches in Washington, Houston and at the United Nations in New York. But the Russian government did not issue an official schedule for reasons of security.

Bush and Putin are expected to discuss U.S. plans to build a missile defense system that U.S. officials acknowledge would violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. Putin has been a strong advocate of maintaining the ABM pact, but U.S. officials hope to fashion an agreement at the summit that would finesse the issue.

Bush and Putin are working on deep cuts in U.S. and Russian arsenals of offensive nuclear weapons, perhaps cutting total stocks to a level last seen 40 years ago _ a time when Washington and Moscow were building up their doomsday weaponry as fast as science and economics would allow.

Bush and Putin also are scheduled to discuss the war on terrorism. But Russia already has pledged its support to the U.S. effort, so there is little expectation that the summit will produce a dramatic announcement on that subject.

Putin and Bush are scheduled to meet at the White House Tuesday morning and hold a joint news conference in the afternoon. Putin also plans to meet congressional leaders and deliver a speech at the Russian Embassy.

On Wednesday, Putin flies to Houston, where he will make a speech at Rice University. He also will meet with former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III and city officials. Later in the day, Putin will head to the Bush ranch near Crawford.

Bush and Putin will wrap up their summit Thursday after breakfast at the ranch.

Putin is scheduled to travel to New York on Thursday for meetings with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Gov. George Pataki. He also plans to visit the ground zero site of the World Trade Center terrorist attack.

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