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Setting the tone for Russia's first direct contact with the Bush administration, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Thursday the time had come for serious dialogue with the United States on missile defense and other nuclear issues.

At a news conference two days before he meets Secretary of State Colin L. Powell for the first time, Ivanov said the world political climate depends on relations between the United States and Russia -- a view contested by the Bush administration, which does not consider Russia its equal.

"We are in the mood for the most active dialogue at all levels, starting with the highest level . . . on the entire range of issues in Russian-American relations," Ivanov said.

Powell and Ivanov will meet Saturday in Cairo, Egypt.

The meeting place was chosen because both diplomats will be in the Middle East at the same time.

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