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Putin hopes for better ties with Obama

world Updated: Jan 17, 2009 20:14 IST

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin voiced hope on Saturday that Russia's ties with the US can improve under President-elect Barack Obama's administration, but told the West it must learn to respect Russia's interests.

Putin said Obama was "sincere and open" and that Moscow was encouraged by what Putin described as positive signals from Obama's camp during the election race. But he said Russia would "wait and see" as Obama sets his course.

"It is my deep belief that the most bitter disappointments usually result from excessive expectations," Putin said at a meeting with German newspaper editors in Dresden that lasted until 2 am.

Putin worked as a KGB officer in Dresden, in what was then East Germany, from 1985 to 1990.

Russia's relations with the United States have sunk to their post-Cold War low amid acrimonious disputes over US missile defense plans and Russia's August war with Georgia, an ex-Soviet neighbor that has close US ties.

Putin praised what he described as signals that Obama's administration could drop plans to deploy missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic and halt efforts to grant NATO membership to Georgia and Ukraine.

Obama has not been explicit in public about whether he would proceed with the missile defense plan in Poland and the Czech Republic. More broadly, he has said he supports missile defense but wants to ensure that it is proven to be a reliable system that does not detract from other security priorities.

Putin said Russia and the US could cooperate constructively on such issues as arms control, the Middle East peace efforts and the Iranian nuclear standoff.