- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 11, 2001

MOSCOW Russia and the United States are near agreement on drastic cuts in long-range nuclear arsenals but remain at odds over a U.S. missile-defense shield, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the arms-reduction deal could be ready for the next summit between President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin, tentatively scheduled for next spring in Moscow.
But the disagreement over missile defense is so deep that Russia is bracing for a potential U.S. withdrawal from the landmark 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, Mr. Ivanov told a joint news conference with Mr. Powell at the Kremlin.
"The positions of the sides remain unchanged," Mr. Ivanov said.
Despite the missile-defense impasse, both diplomats were upbeat about prospects for wrapping up a deal to reduce nuclear warheads.
Mr. Powell said he was taking to Mr. Bush a Russian recommendation on arms cuts that responded to the American president's announcement last month that the United States would cut its nuclear arsenal by two-thirds, from just under 6,000 warheads now to between 1,700 and 2,200.
Mr. Powell, who also met with Mr. Putin during his Moscow stay, did not disclose specifics. But a senior State Department official, briefing reporters on Mr. Powell's plane, said the Russian recommendation was in the same ballpark as the Bush announcement.
Mr. Ivanov said Russia prefers to see the reductions presented in treaty form. Mr. Bush has opposed such a move in the past, suggesting that the reductions should be put on less formal grounds.
But Mr. Powell told reporters that both countries "recognize the need for a codification of the new levels we're going to. It might be in the form of a treaty, or some other way of codifying it."
"With respect to what that agreed lower level will be, we're very close," Mr. Powell said.
Mr. Powell later flew to Germany and met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. They discussed the makeup of the international peacekeeping force that would go into Afghanistan. Germany, Britain and Turkey all have offered to take major roles in the force.
At a joint news conference with Mr. Powell in Berlin, Mr. Schroeder praised the arms-control progress by the United States and Russia. "If this can be nailed down in the form of a treaty, better still," the German leader said.
In Moscow, Mr. Powell, Mr. Putin and Mr. Ivanov discussed the new violence in the Middle East, the peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, trade and the conflict in Chechnya. But few issues seem as difficult for the two countries to resolve as the dispute over Mr. Bush's plan for a missile-defense shield.
Russia does not want to disturb the ABM Treaty, the Cold War-era pact that bars missile-defense systems like the one the Bush administration wants to build. Mr. Ivanov said Russia views the ABM pact as "the key element of the entire treaty system of providing strategic stability in the world."

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