MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin, meeting late on Friday with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, said he did not agree with the assessment that the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan was not going well.
"I don't agree with you that the operation in Afghanistan is not developing as the anti-terrorist coalition would like" Putin said, answering a reporter's question on his view of the situation in Afghanistan.
"Nobody promised a parade march into Afghanistan," Putin said after the two leaders conferred for about 90 minutes.
Putin said that efforts by the United States and its partners to prevent harming civilians were slowing efforts in the military campaign in Afghanistan.
"The actions of the United States and the actions of the (Afghan opposition) northern alliance are being undertaken to avoid civilian casualties, which make things difficult," Putin added.
Both Putin and Schroeder said they shared similar views on the situation in Afghanistan and agreed on the necessity to fight terrorism to the end.
"I must say our views are very near, almost the same," noted Putin.
Schroeder said he and Putin agreed that a post-Taliban government should have a wide representation of the Afghan people and should be formed under the auspices of the United Nations, long a Russian stance. He did not describe the mechanism for forming such a government.
Russia believes that the United Nations should play a major role in any future political settlement for Afghanistan, a country that is a mix of often hostile
In addition to the situation in Afghanistan and the U.S.-led campaign there, the two leaders also focused on bilateral relations and the future of the U.S.-Soviet Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which Putin is expected to discuss with U.S. President George Bush during their summit later this month.
The United States wants to conduct tests for developing a national missile defense system that would contradict the 1972 treaty, a plan to which Moscow remains bitterly opposed.
Schroeder said Putin's visit to the United States would be of "historic significance."
The German chancellor arrived in Moscow at about 9:50 p.m. (1750 GMT) on his way back to Germany from a trip to China, Pakistan and India. He said at the airport that he wanted to inform Putin about the trip.
Putin met Schroeder at the government guest house, greeting the guest with a big bouquet of pink roses and pink zinnias.
The two leaders hugged each other warmly and, speaking German to each other without an interpreter, joked about the late hour before beginning their talks. After a brief news conference just before midnight (2000 GMT), Putin and Schroeder planned to have dinner together with their spouses.
Germany is Russia's closest partner in Europe, and Putin and Schroeder have developed a fruitful relationship, in part due to Putin's excellent command of German.
Both Russia and Germany support the United States in its attacks against the ruling Taliban fundamentalist militia as punishment for harboring Osama bin Laden, the main suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
Friday's meeting was the fifth between Putin and Schroeder this year.