BRUSSELS - The European Union promised Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday that it would accelerate efforts to bring Russia into the World Trade Organization and boost security cooperation with Moscow to help stamp out international terrorism.
EU and NATO leaders expressed delight with Putin's support for the anti-terror campaign that is emerging in response to last month's attacks on the United States. NATO's chief said Russia and the alliance have turned a corner in their often testy relations.
Putin and EU officials announced their security cooperation would include action to block terrorist finances and exchanges of intelligence on terrorist suspects, movements of chemical, biological and nuclear material, the use of false documents and other terrorist activity.
EU Trade Commission Pascal Lamy said he will ``accelerate'' preparatory work on Russia's WTO entry. ``As Russia's main trading partner, the EU strongly supports Russia's goal of joining the WTO,'' he said in a statement, adding that the United States will also pull for Russia.
Lamy said the EU will give Moscow an outline by the end of the year of what it needs to do to comply with world trade rules, and that the United States would do likewise. As a result, work on Russia's coveted entry into the WTO ``will receive fresh impetus early next year,'' he said.
Putin's talks with EU officials and his meeting with NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson were dominated by international efforts to combat terrorism. Both Putin and Robertson suggested the gathering global efforts to fight terrorism can bring Russia and NATO closer together.
``These discussions mark a major milestone in the NATO-Russia relationship,'' Robertson said at a news conference with Putin. ``We have identified a number of new areas were NATO and Russia can work together.''
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told reporters British Prime Minister Tony Blair would visit Moscow Thursday evening for an unofficial working visit.
Putin said he and Blair would talk about Moscow's plans for closer cooperation with NATO and cooperation among members of the U.S.-led coalition to fight terrorism.
Russia remains opposed to the eastward expansion of NATO, which has added three former Warsaw Pact nations into its ranks and is likely to accept more in the coming years, including some former Soviet republics.
Putin said NATO will not make Europe a safer place by taking in more ex-Soviet bloc allies, but stressed that Russia's relationship with NATO should not be overshadowed by the issue of expansion.
Reiterating his determination to cooperate in the fight against terrorism in a news conference with EU foreign policy and security chief Javier Solana, Putin said Europe's security structures should be reviewed to let Russia and the West work more closely against common threats.