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Putin urges voters to back Bush

By CNN Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty

Putin says terrorists want to inflict "maximum damage to Bush."
George W. Bush
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin says terrorist attacks in Iraq are aimed at preventing the re-election of U.S. President George W. Bush and that a Bush defeat "could lead to the spread of terrorism to other parts of the world."

Putin, speaking Central Asian Cooperation Organization summit in Tajikistan Monday, made his most overt comments of support so far for the re-election of Bush for a second term.

"Any unbiased observer understands that attacks of international terrorist organizations in Iraq, especially nowadays, are targeted not only and not so much against the international coalition as against President Bush," Putin said.

"International terrorists have set as their goal inflicting the maximum damage to Bush, to prevent his election to a second term.

"If they succeed in doing that, they will celebrate a victory over America and over the entire anti-terror coalition," Putin said.

"In that case, this would give an additional impulse to international terrorists and to their activities, and could lead to the spread of terrorism to other parts of the world."

Putin noted that American voters will not decide the election just on Iraq.

"Because of this we must take a realistic approach and be prepared for any development of events," he said. "We respect any choice the American people will make."

President Putin made it clear Russia remained opposed to the war in Iraq.

"Today, our views on that differ from the views of President Bush," he said.

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