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Bush, Putin agree to fight spread of nuclear arms

U.S. leader raises concerns about democracy in Russia

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Nuclear Policies

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (CNN) -- President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed Thursday that Iran and North Korea should not have nuclear weapons and to work to keep such arms out of the hands of terrorists.

"We agreed to accelerate our work to protect nuclear weapons and material, both in our two nations and around the world," Bush said.

The two leaders announced these efforts after meeting in the Slovak capital of Bratislava on the final leg of Bush's three-nation European tour.

"We agreed that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon. I appreciate Vladimir's understanding on that," Bush said. "We agreed that North Korea should not have a nuclear weapon."

Iran has denied U.S. accusations it is using its nuclear program to develop weapons.

Moscow has faced strong pressure from the United States not to go ahead with providing nuclear fuel for Iran's $800 million Bushehr reactor, which Russia is helping to construct.

North Korea recently acknowledged possessing nuclear weapons. The Bush administration wants Pyongyang to take part in multilateral nonproliferation talks.

The two leaders also announced agreements concerning weapons used by terrorists, including improvised explosive devices and shoulder-fired missiles called MANPADs.

Insurgents often use the former to attack U.S.-led troops in Iraq, and Chechen rebels employ MANPADs -- man-portable air-defense systems -- against Russian aircraft.

Bush also said he raised concerns about Russia's state of democracy "in a constructive and friendly way" during the talks.

"I reaffirmed my belief that it is democracy and freedom that bring true security and prosperity in every land," Bush said.

Critics accuse Putin of rolling back democratic reforms that came to Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"We may not always agree with each other ... but we've found a lot of common ground," Bush said.

Putin ruled out any turn toward totalitarianism.

"Russia has made its choice in favor of democracy 14 years ago, independently without pressure from the outside," Putin said. "This is our final choice, and we have no way back."

He added that Russia is committed to the fundamental principles of democracy.

Earlier Bush hailed Slovaks as "friends, allies and brothers" in the fight for global freedom and thanked the country for deploying noncombat troops to Iraq.

In a speech Thursday before his meeting with Putin, Bush saluted the country for standing with the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq. Slovakia has about 100 troops in Iraq.

"You are showing that a small nation built on a big idea can spread democracy throughout the world," he said.

Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic welcomed Bush to Bratislava's ornate Presidential Palace.

Bush also met Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, praising his economic development work and promising to relax visa restrictions for Slovaks wanting to visit the United States.

The Slovak capital played a major role in the so-called Velvet Revolution of 1989 that led to the peaceful end of communist control of Czechoslovakia. The result was the division of the country into Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Bush linked Slovakia and its revolution to Iraq, saying the latter was undergoing a "purple revolution," a reference to the dye used to mark voters' fingers in the January election.

"The road to liberty and prosperity has not always been easy, but Americans respect your courage and determination to build a better future for your children," the U.S. leader told Slovaks gathered at Hviezdoslavovo Square as light snow fell.

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