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US, Russia now agree on path for Iraq, Rice says

MOSCOW -- The United States and Russia are now ''on the same page" regarding the future of Iraq despite past disputes, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said after consultations on a new UN resolution guiding the transfer of limited authority to an Iraqi government this summer.

Rice met with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia during the weekend to discuss the next stage in the Iraq occupation and solicit cooperation in fashioning a Security Council resolution conferring legitimacy on an interim government after June 30.

Although she proposed no specific language and won no public commitments, she pronounced herself satisfied with the talks.

''No matter how we got into Iraq and disagreements we might have had in the past, everybody agrees that the most important thing now is to have a stable Iraq, to move forward with a resolution at the United Nations Security Council," Rice said in an interview with the ''Namedni" news program on Russia's NTV television, which aired last night.

During the discussions, Russian officials pushed a proposal to convene a special international conference on Iraq as a means to give the transfer of political power in Baghdad more credibility.

Rice agreed to consider the idea but did not commit to it, US officials said.

After leaving Moscow, Rice flew to Berlin yesterday for meetings with top officials from several European allies.

During the talks here, Rice said she urged Russia to guarantee democratic reforms and seek a political solution to the war in Chechnya.

''It's important that democratic institutions take hold here in Russia," she told NTV, in a softer version of the more pointed critique of Russia's growing authoritarianism offered by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell during his most recent visit here.

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