President Vladimir Putin Monday told Russian diplomats that relations with the American business community must be improved, saying his own friendly ties with President Bush are not enough for a stable, strong relationship.
The statement came amid international concern over Friday's killing of the American editor of Forbes magazine's Russian edition and the trial of former Yukos oil company chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
"Relations with the United States demand constant attention," Putin told some 130 ambassadors at a meeting on foreign policy and their activities.
"Good, trusting contacts on the level of the leadership of both countries foster close cooperation," said Putin, who stressed that such cooperation is needed to combat terrorism, maintain stability and control weapons proliferation.
"But for a stable and strategic partnership, in the full sense of the word, this alone is not enough. As broad as possible a swath of American society — including, of course, business — must be interested in constructive, good relations with Russia," he said.
Putin thanked the ambassadors for helping boost Russia's international clout after a sharp decline after the 1991 Soviet collapse, but suggested the main reasons for the improvement were his moves to strengthen the state and the country's recent economic surge.
"The strengthening of Russian statehood and economic growth have had a positive effect on our country's international position," Putin said, according to Russian news agencies. Foreign countries "see in Russia a serious partner in the solution of the most important international problems," he added.
Putin stressed the importance of economic activity in Russian foreign policy, but repeated that the goal of the country, which aims to join the World Trade Organization, is not simply to join as many foreign trade and economic organizations as possible.