( AFP ) - US President George W. Bush looks forward to working with new Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and will soon telephone to offer his congratulations, the White House said Wednesday.
"He looks forward to working with him and wishes him the best on his new position," said spokeswoman Dana Perino as Medvedev became Russia's third president since the Soviet Union's fall, taking over from Vladimir Putin.
"If we have good relations, as the president has had with President Putin, that allows you the ability to speak very frankly when we have concerns when it comes to democracy and human rights," she said.
A top aide to Bush said the United States expects "continuity" in Russia's foreign policy and reiterated that Washington was "very concerned" with Russia's involvement in breakaway regions of neighboring Georgia.
"We expect continuity in Russian foreign policy," national security advisor Stephen Hadley told reporters. "That means there will be areas where we agree and ... areas where we disagree."
Bush was to telephone Medvedev soon, perhaps not Wednesday, said Perino, who noted that the two leaders had their first face-to-face talks as Bush met with Putin at the Black Sea resort of Sochi in early April.
"They had a very good meeting" and Bush "said he looked forward to working with him and to having a good relationship with him as he had with President Putin, where they can have a frank exchange of views, and also cooperate on issues such as the nuclear agreement that we signed yesterday," she said.
"But he also knew that Medvedev was being respectful of not acting like the president yet, since he wasn't yet. So they'll be able to kick off the relationship as heads of state as soon as they speak."
Perino noted that Bush and Medvedev will meet soon on the world stage -- at the July meeting of the Group of Eight industrialized nations in Japan.
Under Putin, who took over as prime minister, Russian-US relations faced strains on a range of issues, including US plans for a missile shield in Eastern Europe and NATO's eastward expansion.
Bush, who leaves office in January 2009, has also often criticized Moscow on human rights and press freedom issues, and recently ratcheted up US pressure over Russia's disputes with former Soviet Georgia's pro-Western government.
"It is important for our country to have a good relationship with Russia. And that relationship is complex, but it is one where we can do a lot of good together," Perino said.