Putin Calls Bush on Sept. 11
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MOSCOW (AP) _ Russian President Vladimir Putin called U.S. President George W. Bush early Wednesday to express his country’s condolences on the terrorist attacks a year ago.
``I want to reiterate my condolences and express not only the sympathy but also the support of the whole Russian people to Americans,″ Putin told Bush from the southern resort of Sochi, where he is on a working vacation. Fragments of Putin’s side of the conversation were shown on Russian state television.
``In Russia, they say that time cures, but there are things we cannot forget, we must not forget,″ Putin said.
Putin alluded to Russia’s own experience with terrorism _ a series of fall 1999 apartment house bombings that killed 300 people _ saying the two countries had much in common in the fight against terror.
``Recently we commemorated those who were killed in a string of blasts in apartment buildings in Moscow three years ago. And today we are also remembering those who died in Washington and New York a year ago,″ Putin said.
Putin was the first world leader to call Bush in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and he became a key U.S. ally in the military operation in Afghanistan, opening Russian airspace for U.S. humanitarian flights, sharing intelligence and allowing the stationing of U.S. troops in some of the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.
In recent months, differences have emerged over Iraq. Russia has opposed any military action against Iraq _ where it has extensive economic interests _ and favors the return of international weapons inspectors to the country.
The subject of Iraq did not come up in the televised portion of the phone conversation.
In Russia’s parliament, the State Duma, lawmakers observed a minute of silence on their first day back at work after their summer recess.
At the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Marine guards lowed the American flag to half-staff Wednesday morning and visitors laid flowers outside the main building as the Star-Spangled Banner was broadcast over a loudspeaker. Embassy security officers scanned the heaps of flowers with metal detectors.
The U.S. ambassador to Russia, Alexander Vershbow, attended an Orthodox church memorial service at St. Catherine Cathedral in Moscow and laid a wreath at the Pushkin Square pedestrian underpass, where a bomb killed 13 people and wounded 90 others in August 2000.
Meanwhile, hundreds attended a memorial service at St. Petersburg’s Kazan Cathedral and visited the U.S. Consulate to sign a condolence book.
``I feel sorry for America,″ said Misha Ushakov, 8, who came to sign the book with his nanny. ``We should take the people who did that by the collar and throw them somewhere far away ... somewhere in outer space so that we would never see them again.″
Russian Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov ordered heightened security around public places and defense facilities on Wednesday, the Interfax news agency reported. Airlines and airports were also taking extra security precautions, Russians news agencies said.