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SEOUL, South Korea (MCT) — U.S. politics combined with diplomacy as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev took a swipe at Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama pointed to an uncooperative Congress to explain why he was delaying negotiations with Russian leaders over missile defense. Romney, in a CNN interview Monday, had referred to Russia as “our No. 1 geopolitical foe,” prompting Medvedev to tell reporters here that the former Massachusetts governor’s language seemed out of date and “smelled of Hollywood” stereotypes.

“Regarding ideological cliches, every time this or that side uses phrases like ‘enemy No. 1, this always alarms me,” the Russian leader said Tuesday in remarks broadcast on Russian television.

The back-and-forth was prompted by an open-microphone incident Monday in which Obama could be heard telling Medvedev that he would have more “flexibility” after November’s voting to consider Russian concerns about U.S. missile defense plans.

“This is my last election,” Obama said. “After my election I have more flexibility.”

“I understand,” Medvedev responded. “I will transmit this information to Vladimir,” he added, referring to Vladimir Putin, who won Russia’s election on March 4 and will begin a six-year term as president in May.

Republicans quickly pounced on that exchange, calling it evidence that Obama, if re-elected, would go soft on national security issues.

Romney was highly critical, saying in the CNN interview that “Russia is not a friendly character on the world stage. And for this president to be looking for greater flexibility, where he doesn’t have to answer to the American people in his relations with Russia, is very, very troubling, very alarming.”

Obama returned fire on Tuesday, telling reporters as he wrapped up a three-day diplomatic tour in Seoul that he had merely been realistic about the problems of dealing with a Republican Congress.
All the domestic controversy largely overshadowed the purpose of Obama’s trip — a nuclear security summit where more than 50 world leaders agreed to take modest steps to better secure fissile material within their borders.

Experts looking for a permanent process for standardizing the way nations store, guard or transport their nuclear material said the summit had helped raise the profile of an important issue.

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