US-Russian relations plunged to one of their lowest points since the Cold War this week after Russia granted temporary asylum to fugitive former US spy contractor Edward Snowden. Obama retaliated by abruptly canceling a Moscow summit with Putin planned for early next month.

At a White House news conference, Obama insisted that he does not have bad personal relations with Putin. The two men had a testy meeting in June in Northern Ireland and from the photos of them at the time, it looked as if they would both rather have been somewhere else.

"I know the press likes to focus on body language, and he's got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom. But the truth is that when we're in conversations together, oftentimes it's very productive," Obama said.

Putin's sending of a telegram wishing former President George W Bush well after a heart procedure this week was viewed by some Kremlin watchers as a sign that Putin was sending an implicit message to Obama.

The White House says Obama pulled out of the Moscow summit not just because of the Russian decision to grant asylum to Snowden, who is wanted in the United States to face espionage charges. US differences with Russia have piled up recently over Moscow's support for the Syrian government in that country's civil war, as well as human rights concerns and other grievances.

 (Agencies)

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