ROME—President Vladimir Putin proposed Friday to place interceptor missiles for a
U.S.-built, Europe-based missile-defense system in Turkey or Iraq instead of Poland, as the White House wants.
It was Putin's second surprising suggestion in two days to change the proposed U.S. system that he previously had deplored in threatening Cold War language. Both suggestions aim to move the system far from Russia, whereas President Bush's plan would put missile-defense installations near Russia's borders, which Putin finds threatening.
Putin stunned the White House on Thursday by offering to cooperate if the system uses an existing Soviet-era radar system in Azerbaijan instead of a new one the United States would build in the Czech Republic.
Then he suggested Friday that 10 interceptor missiles that Bush wants to station in Poland would be better placed much farther away.
"They could be placed in the south, in U.S. NATO allies such as Turkey, or even Iraq,"
Putin said at a news conference ending the Group of Eight summit in Germany. "They could also be placed on sea platforms."
White House officials reacted cautiously to Putin's latest suggestion, and Bush didn't mention it when he spoke after a meeting with Polish leaders in Gdansk.
Bush said that a missile-defense plan working group, including Russian officials, would "discuss different opportunities and different options, all aimed at providing protection for people from rogue regimes who might be in a position to either blackmail or attack those of us who live in free societies."
Gordon Johndroe, a National Security Council spokesman, said the administration would continue to have "discussions with the Czech Republic, Poland, NATO, the Russians and all other parties as we move forward."
Putin's proposals put Bush in an awkward position. If he rejects them after years of inviting Russia to work on the system in partnership, he risks inflaming a vital strategic relationship.
But if he accepts Putin's radar proposal, he runs the risk of a negative reaction at home, especially from conservatives, for letting Russia direct a crucial part of a system that Bush believes is important to America's defense.
And if he heeds Putin's advice to install interceptor missiles in Turkey or Iraq instead of Central Europe, the price of pleasing Russia might be resentment and heightened insecurity in Poland and the Czech Republic, neighbors of Russia that remain uneasy about its might.
Putin's proposal Friday capped a busy final day at the G-8 summit, part of which Bush missed because he was troubled by an upset stomach. He skipped several early meetings, remaining in his private quarters, where he met one-on-one with new French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Bush felt that the two leaders established "a real personal rapport," White House counselor Dan Bartlett said. That could reverse years of bad blood between Bush and Sarkozy's predecessor, Jacques Chirac, who led global opposition to Bush's invasion of Iraq.
Bush also huddled privately with Chinese President Hu Jintao, and the two had "a good talk" about Darfur, Bartlett said. China is under global pressure to use its economic leverage over Sudan to ease the humanitarian crisis in its Darfur region.
In their final communique, the G-8 leaders also:
_ Agreed to provide $60 billion to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in Africa. The United States pledged about half the money earlier; other nations will pitch in the rest.
_ Pledged to adopt "future measures" against Iran if it fails to stop its nuclear enrichment program, which they fear could provide material for a nuclear bomb. The pledge bolsters support for a United Nations Security Council move toward a third wave of sanctions against Iran.
The G-8 leaders failed to agree on the issue of Kosovo independence. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the summit's host, said there were differing opinions about a proposal to postpone for six months a U.N. Security Council vote on Kosovo independence.
The United States and the European Union support giving the mostly ethnic Albanian province supervised independence. Russia supports Serbia's opposition to Kosovo's independence. Serbia views the province as its historic heartland.