Bush meets with activists after arrival to Sankt-Peterburg

U.S. President George W. Bush brought a message Friday to Russian leader Vladimir Putin and world leaders gathering for a weekend summit: When possible, speak with a single voice in combating crises such as the flare-up in the Middle East, according to the AP.

Followed by a host of global troubles, Bush arrived in St. Petersburg on Friday afternoon to an understated welcome.

Bush and his wife, Laura, walked slowly toward the tall obelisk inscribed with the dates of the siege ahead of two soldiers bearing a large wreath. With the flowers laid at the base, they paused for a moment of silence.

Making a gentle statement about democratic backsliding under Putin's leadership, Bush went from there to sit down with 20 Russian civil society activists. They are involved in promoting human rights, education, environmental protection, public health and other issues.

The highlight of the president's first day here is dinner with Putin at the opulent 18th century Konstantin Palace, the luxurious venue Putin chose for the Group of Eight meetings.

In meetings between Bush and Putin, the American president was pressing his case that Russia should be more tolerant of political liberties and a free press. The president says he will make his point in a respectful way.

Despite his appeals for unity, Bush's fierce support for Israel has put him at odds with some of the other G-8 nations. Summit host Russia as well as France have criticized the Israeli attacks on Lebanon.

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