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(photo credit: AP [file])
Russian President Vladimir Putin, bitterly opposed to a planned US missile shield in Europe, told US President George W. Bush on Thursday that Moscow would drop its objections if the radar-based system were installed in Azerbaijan.
Putin told Bush he would not seek to retarget Russian missiles on Europe if the United States agreed to put the system in the central Asian nation of Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic.
Bush's National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley called it an "interesting proposal."
"Let's let our experts have a look at it," Hadley said.
Bush has proposed putting the radar and rockets in the Czech Republic and Poland.
"This will create grounds for common work," Putin told Bush as they met on the sidelines of a summit of the world's eight major industrialized democracies being held at this seaside resort.
Bush, speaking before Putin, said that the Russian president had presented some interesting suggestions and that they would pursue the issue during two days of talks beginning July 1 in Kennebunkport, Maine, at the Bush family's oceanfront compound.
"We both agreed to have a strategic dialogue," Bush said. "This is a serious issue."
Putin's proposal to put the system in Azerbaijan was a surprise.
The Russian leader said the proposed relocation would alleviate Russia's concerns about a missile shield based in Europe. Moreover, he said an Azerbaijan-based system would cover all of Europe rather than part it.
Hadley did not rule out the possibility that the end result would be some mix of the Russian and the US proposals.