updated 9/16/2005 11:30:32 AM ET 2005-09-16T15:30:32

President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin agree on how the world should confront the development of nuclear weapons in North Korea, a member of Bush’s “axis of evil.”

They disagree over how to address Iran’s nuclear ambitions and have long-running differences over the U.S. led invasion of Iraq. Bush’s famous list of international outlaws included those nations, too.

Bush was expected to argue at his meeting with Putin on Friday that Iran deserves to be summoned to the U.N. Security Council to account for what the U.S. contends is a record of nuclear deceit.

Putin has grievances over what Russia views as U.S. slights and double standards in its support for democracy movements on former Soviet turf. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Russian leader was getting a view of the U.S. in a vulnerable moment.

Putin was quoted soon after the flooding in New Orleans as saying he could not believe the images he saw came from the powerful United States.

At their first meeting in months, Bush and Putin also were expected to raise their differences over whether there is creep toward authoritarian rule in Russia and discuss Putin’s current leadership of the Group of Eight industrial nations.

Bush and Putin call one another friend. Their bond was forged largely after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when Russia delivered help in the fight against terrorism.

The political relationship has frayed with each passing year. Nuclear nonproliferation, however, has proved an area of considerable cooperation.

On North Korea, the U.S. and Russia are among five nations negotiating in unison to persuade the communist North to give up its declared nuclear weapons in return for energy and security guarantees.

The current round of talks has come to a standstill in Beijing. U.S. and Russian diplomats agree that North Korea cannot be trusted with the civilian nuclear power plant it seeks.

Opposite sides of Iran issue
The story is different on Iran, which says its nuclear program is solely for peaceful energy production. Russia is helping Iran develop nuclear energy, and the Russian Foreign Ministry recently said it sees no basis for referring Tehran to the Security Council.

When the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency meets next week, it could vote to send Iran’s case to the Security Council for possible penalties. The International Atomic Energy Agency could put off a vote, despite the Bush administration’s preference for a quick referral.

Bush’s hand may have been strengthened by statements from Iran’s president on Thursday.

Iran’s state-run news agency said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in New York to attend the U.N. world summit, said his country is willing to provide other Islamic nations with nuclear technology.

The European Union has taken the lead in trying to persuade Iran to halt development of nuclear activities that could be used to make weapons. In exchange, Iran would win economic concessions.

If the case does end up before the Security Council, Russian cooperation could be critical. As a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia could veto any resolution punishing Iran or could abstain.

China also could veto any possible punishment. The White House acknowledged Wednesday that Bush was unable to get a commitment on Iran during his meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Iran has said it does not fear the Security Council.

The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran and must apply pressure through international organizations or allies with political and economic ties to Tehran.

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli tried to play up a bright spot in U.S.-Russian dealings over Iran on Thursday. Russia has agreed to impose controls on its joint nuclear operations with Iran that will keep nuclear fuel out of direct control by the Iranians.

“I think that’s very clear evidence of the concern that Russia has about Iranian activities and the measures that they are prepared to take in response to those concerns,” Ereli said.

Ahmadinejad is expected to make new proposals by the weekend at the U.N. summit in hopes of defusing the nuclear standoff.

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