Putin arrives in Spain for visit, terrorism high on the agenda

Spain's king and queen greeted Russian President Vladimir Putin with state honors Wednesday at the start of a two-day visit to discuss everything from terrorism to European integration, officials said.

Spanish Industry Minister Jose Luis Montilla confirmed that Russian energy giant Gazprom and Spanish-Argentine oil and energy company Repsol YPF were in talks to collaborate on a liquefied natural gas project. He did not provide further details.

Spanish media reported in October that Repsol and Gazprom met to discuss business opportunities to supply Russian gas to Spain and possible cooperation in supplying liquefied gas to the United States and other countries.

Putin and his wife, Lyudmila, were feted at the Palacio del Pardo, a royal guest house outside Madrid, by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia in a ceremony featuring an honor guard.

Spain's royal family was also hosting a gala Wednesday evening in Putin's honor.

The Russian president holds talks with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on Thursday and they are likely to focus on security issues and Russian cooperation with European and international bodies, such as the EU, NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

After having lunch with the royal family, Putin was hosted by Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardon, who presented the president with a key to the capital city, a present Putin called "a symbol of our cooperation and partnership."

Ruiz Gallardon praised the European orientation of Putin's foreign policy, saying it brought Russians and Spaniards closer together.

He also talked of both countries' joint commitment to battling terrorism and thanked Putin and Russians for expressing their condolences to Spaniards following the 2004 Madrid train bombings, which killed 191 people and were claimed by Muslim militants who said they acted on al-Qaida's behalf.

Russia also has been targeted, mostly in attacks blamed on Chechen rebels and their allies.

Putin was quoted by Spanish media Wednesday as saying that dialogue with former terrorists was possible only if they lay down arms, in line with Zapatero's stance against terrorism, reports AP.

O.Ch.