- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2000

U.S. and Russian negotiators searched Thursday for a new arms-control deal that would keep existing treaties intact, permit construction of a national missile defense (NMD) and overcome opposition in the Senate.

The effort followed a warning on Wednesday by Sen. Jesse Helms, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, that any new arms treaty would be rejected by the Senate.

"I disagree with Sen. Helms," said Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright after meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

"I don't think we can take a pause with threats to the U.S. national interest," she told reporters at the State Department Thursday.

Asked if the Clinton administration might try to carry out plans to develop and deploy a limited 100-missile shield based in Alaska without Senate approval, Mrs. Albright was vague.

"Obviously, we want support [for the NMD] and we will be involved in discussions," to overcome opposition by Mr. Helms and other Republicans in Congress, Mrs. Albright said.

The 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty represents the main obstacle to a missile defense because it limits the United States to developing one anti-missile site to protect its capital.

The treaty was interpreted in 1997 to allow building as many as 100 interceptors a view that Russia has hinted it may be willing to accept.

"I think the American people want us to end some of the problems left over from the Cold War … I think we are following what the American people want," Mrs. Albright said.

Mr. Helms wants the United States to abandon the ABM Treaty, which bars Russia and the United States from building a national anti-missile shield.

The logic behind the ABM pact was that peace was secure because each side was threatened with mutually assured destruction. ABM supporters at the time feared that a missile defense would destabilize that balance.

Mrs. Albright Thursday said that the 1972 treaty failed to meet today's threats.

With nations such as North Korea, Iraq and Iran moving to acquire long-range nuclear-tipped missiles, the United States needs a limited shield to face that new threat, say U.S. officials.

The 1997 interpretation of the ABM "deals with short-range missiles but does not deal with intercontinental ballistic missiles … It can't deal with the problem," Mrs. Albright said Thursday.

Presumptive Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush does not agree with the Clinton administration's efforts to preserve the ABM Treaty and build a limited NMD, his top foreign-policy adviser said Thursday.

"We want very much to move to a national missile defense," said Condoleezza Rice. She said she agreed with Mr. Helms' warning that President Clinton should not try to create a new arms-control system that would not survive his presidency.

"In the spirit of what Sen. Helms said, it would be a pity if we got an agreement with Russia that constrains what we really want and then it was unacceptable under the new president and Senate," said Miss Rice.

The former Stanford University provost and National Security Council adviser said it could be a repeat of the humiliating defeat of the nuclear test-ban treaty last year "where the president negotiated an arms-control accord and it got voted down."

Asked if she would advise a Bush administration to accept the limited 100-launcher missile shield which might be acceptable to Russia, as well as meet some threats from rogue states Miss Rice said that would be a "mistake."

"A single site is only a start," she told reporters.

Mr. Helms and other critics are seeking a more ambitious missile-defense plan.

Russia has threatened to stop compliance with all nuclear-weapons reduction accords if the ABM Treaty is abrogated by the United States.

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