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Trump hails 'very good start' with Putin at first summit

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Mr Trump spoke of "having an extraordinary relationship" with Mr Putin. They discussed topics ranging from Syria, Ukraine and China to trade tariffs and the size of their nuclear arsenals.

Helsinki

PRESIDENTS Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin held a historic summit on Monday vowing their determination to forge a reset of troubled relations between the two nuclear powers.

Mr Trump, bent on forging a personal bond with the Kremlin chief despite allegations of Russian meddling in US politics, went into the summit blaming the "stupidity" of his predecessors for plunging ties to their present low.

"I think it's a good start: very, very good start for everybody," he told reporters after meeting Mr Putin for more than two hours with just their interpreters present, and just before they were joined by their national security teams.

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Many in Washington were agog at Mr Trump's decision to sit one-on-one with Mr Putin, a former KGB spymaster, worried about what he might bargain away after previously cosying up to the autocratic leaders of China and North Korea.

Indeed, some domestic critics wanted the Helsinki summit called off entirely after 12 Russian military agents were indicted under a long-running probe into Moscow's alleged manipulation of the 2016 US elections.

But Mr Trump pressed ahead and looked forward to "having an extraordinary relationship" as the pair sat down to discuss everything from Syria, Ukraine and China to trade tariffs and the size of their nuclear arsenals.

Mr Putin, basking in congratulations from Mr Trump and other world leaders for the successful staging of the World Cup in Russia, said: "The time has come to talk in a substantive way about our relations and problem areas of the world."

Mr Trump added: "Frankly, we have not been getting along for the last number of years. And I really think the world wants to see us get along. We are the two great nuclear powers."

Shortly before the summit opened, Mr Trump was asked if he would press Mr Putin over Russia's alleged manipulation of the election. He said only: "We'll do just fine."

But there are many points of friction that could yet spoil Mr Trump's hoped-for friendship with his wily opposite number, who has run Russia for 18 years.

Mr Trump began the day by firing a Twitter broadside at his domestic opponents and the investigation into alleged Russian election meddling.

"Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of US foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!" he tweeted.

Russia's foreign ministry tweeted in response: "We agree." AFP

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