President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin met on Sunday for talks said to focus on the Middle East and the future of Russian democracy. In a briefing to reporters, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the presidents discussed the need to fully support Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as Israel prepares to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Washington and Moscow have "close positions" on the issue. Ms. Rice said Mr. Bush also discussed Mr. Putin's views on democracy in what she called a friendly and open way. In an interview with a US television program to be aired Sunday, Mr. Putin said the US democratic system does not travel well, and that democracy must result from a society's internal development.
On Monday, President Bush will attend Russian celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the end of World War Two in Europe.