Rice, Russian downplay disputes

Published May 16, 2007

MOSCOW - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice won agreement Tuesday in talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin to tone down Russian rhetoric perceived as hostile to Washington, although she gave no ground on major disagreements that have riled Moscow.

Rice said that no country could veto U.S. plans to set up a missile defense system in Europe and that the United States still supports a U.N. plan for independence for the Serbian province of Kosovo.

Russia vehemently opposes the missile system.

Still, Rice and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov were collegial at a news conference where they stressed areas of cooperation, including the war on terror and halting the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

"There will always be situations where our positions do not coincide, " Lavrov acknowledged, but attributed talk of a catastrophic breakdown in relations to media speculation.