PUSHKIN, Russia (AP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin told President Bush on Friday the United States should not wage war alone against Iraq, and he put Bush on the spot by questioning whether White House allies like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are doing enough to fight terrorism.
"Where has Osama bin Laden taken refuge?" the Russian said in a joint news conference with Bush at an 18th century czarist castle.
The sharply worded question, though not a direct criticism of Bush, touched a nerve with the U.S. delegation and underscored the frustration felt by U.S. officials since the al-Qaida leader resurfaced after months of silence in an audiotape praising recent terrorist attacks.
In Washington, Democratic leaders have accused Bush of focusing on Iraq at the expense of the broader war on terrorism. Some have suggested the White House fueled a conflict with Iraq to take command of the agenda for midterm elections, which resulted in big GOP gains.
Meeting with Putin beneath the golden domes of Catherine Palace, Bush cited the recent arrest of al-Qaida's Persian Gulf operations chief, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, as evidence of the U.S.-led coalition's success.
"People who love freedom are one person safer as a result of us finding this guy," the president said. "We did bring to justice a killer."
But Putin, while issuing a statement in support of Bush's Iraq policy, followed quickly with severe doubts about the war on terrorism. It was not clear whether he was putting more weight on the fight against terrorists than the Iraq conflict, but that implication could be drawn.