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Trump congratulated Putin, considered summit

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

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MOSCOW, Russia (AFP) — US President Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin on Tuesday discussed holding a possible summit as the American leader congratulated the Russian President on his re-election, the Kremlin said.

They also stressed the importance of joint efforts to limit an arms race and boost economic cooperation after a Russian spy attack row with Britain plunged relations with the West into a new crisis.

"Donald Trump congratulated Vladimir Putin on his victory in the presidential election," the Kremlin said in a statement following Trump's phone call two days after Putin's re-election.

"Special attention has been paid to working out the issue of holding a possible meeting at the highest level," the Kremlin said.

"The importance was stressed of coordinating joint efforts to limit an arms race," it said, adding that the two leaders discussed boosting economic cooperation.

They also discussed the crises in Ukraine and Syria, as well as Pyongyang's nuclear programme as Trump pushes forward with plans for a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"On the whole, the conversation was constructive and business-like," the Kremlin said, adding its goal was to help the two countries "overcome the problems that had accumulated in the Russian-US relations".

White House officials confirmed the call, but offered no immediate details about whether Trump offered his congratulations after an election that appears to have had significant flaws.

The White House had earlier indicated that no call with Putin was planned and the Russian leader played down talk of a rift.

On Sunday, Putin secured a landslide victory in a presidential election that saw him return to the Kremlin for a fourth term with a record vote share.

Western leaders were slow to congratulate Putin as monitors reported ballot stuffing and other alleged cases of fraud, though fewer irregularities were reported than in previous years.

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