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Trump and Putin find chemistry, draw criticism in first meeting

In a meeting that ran longer than either side had planned, U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia's Vladimir Putin discussed alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. election on Friday but agreed to focus on better ties rather than litigating the past.

(reuters) -- Trump, a Republican who called it an "honor" to meet with the Russian president, drew swift criticism from Democrats at home, who accused him of dismissing U.S. intelligence and giving Putin's denial, reiterated on Friday, of Russian interference too much weight.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters at a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 major economies in Hamburg that Trump had "positive chemistry" with Putin during the meeting, which lasted some two hours and 15 minutes.

He opened their discussion by pressing Putin about "the concerns of the American people regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election" and had a robust exchange, Tillerson said.

The Russian president has denied any meddling in the U.S. democratic process last year and Moscow has asked for proof that it took place. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Trump accepted Putin's assertions that the allegations, backed by U.S. intelligence agencies, were false.

Tillerson said they both sought to move on.

"The presidents rightly focused on how do we move forward from what may be simply an intractable disagreement at this point," Tillerson said.

That explanation did not sit well with Democrats.

Working to compromise the integrity of our election process cannot and should not be an area where 'agree to disagree' is an acceptable conclusion," said U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer in a statement.

On Thursday in Poland Trump gave lukewarm support to the view that Moscow interfered in the 2016 U.S. political process.

Trump promised a rapprochement with Moscow during his campaign but has been unable to deliver because his administration has been dogged by investigations into the allegations of Russian interference in the election and ties with his campaign.

Trump says his team did not collude with Russia.

Tillerson said they agreed to work on commitments of "non-interference in the affairs of the United States and our democratic process as well as those in other countries."

Andrew Weiss, a former National Security Council official responsible for Russia, said Trump had sent the wrong signal with upbeat body language and by not pushing Putin harder on alleged Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election.

"The atmospherics were chummy," said Weiss, who is now at Washington's Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank in Washington. "The clear push from Trump to normalize U.S.-Russian relations was on display in the meeting."

Source: Al- Alam News Network

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