- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 15, 2001

Secretary of State Colin Powell yesterday warned Russia that its planned arms and nuclear power deals with Iran could jeopardize its support in the West.
Saying the Bush administration intends a "realistic approach" to Moscow, Mr. Powell said at a Senate hearing that he will raise U.S. complaints forcefully with Russian officials over the Iran deals.
"If Russia wants a better relationship with the United States and the West … we have to be concerned when we see suggestions that they may be investing in weapons sales with regimes such as Iran," Mr. Powell told the Senate Budget Committee.
Mr. Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice met separately yesterday with Sergei Ivanov, top security adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Ivanov is the highest-ranking Russian official to visit Washington since President Bush took office Jan. 20.
Mr. Ivanov talked with Miss Rice for more than two hours at the White House, then met with Mr. Powell. An administration official, speaking on background, called the discussions "very constructive and businesslike."
Emerging from his meeting with the secretary of state, Mr. Ivanov said U.S. fears that Russia is selling Iran nuclear weapon technology or weapons of mass destruction are misplaced.
"In fact, there are no arms deals with Iran so far, but we discussed the possible future contracts of conventional weapons being sold by Russia to Iran and they are all legitimate," Mr. Ivanov told reporters outside the State Department.
The Bush administration repeatedly has expressed unhappiness with Russia's expanding military ties with Tehran, underscored by this week's warm summit in Moscow between Mr. Putin and Iranian President Mohammed Khatami. The sales of advanced conventional weapons and sensitive technology to Iran could have "serious ramifications," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Tuesday.
Russia has brushed aside U.S. criticisms. Mehdi Safari, Iran's ambassador to Moscow, said last month that Iran plans to purchase approximately $7 billion in arms from Russia over the next several years.
The administration official, speaking on background, said he knew of no overall review of U.S. aid programs to Russia, but Mr. Powell said yesterday the lavish bilateral and multilateral support Russia received in the early days of the Clinton administration are over.
"Our goal should not be to make Russia our best friend, or to make it our enemy again," Mr. Powell told the Budget Committee. "We should help it through our example, through support where support is merited, but not by throwing money down on programs that don't make sense."
Mr. Powell said Russia's diplomatic and financial investment in Iran, which the United States considers a "rogue state" and a sponsor of terrorists, resembled the failed support the old Soviet Union gave to undemocratic regimes during the Cold War.
"The old Soviet Union wasted decades of treasure investing in regimes that had no future," Mr. Powell said. "It's a lesson they should have learned that it would not be wise to invest in regimes that are not following accepted standards of international behavior."
But Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici, New Mexico Republican, said Russia's domestic economic woes would make it hard for the United States to constrain Moscow's foreign arms sales.
"I don't know whether you can say to a country that is having an awful time meeting its obligations that we, America, want you to behave a certain way even if it means you get no resources for your regime," Mr. Domenici said.
One proposed budget cut outlined by Mr. Powell could have a direct impact on a key Russian sector, a leading Russian oil executive said this week.
Mr. Bush's budget calls for a 21 percent cut in the Export-Import Bank, which provides loan guarantees for U.S. businesses investing in risky overseas markets.
Simon Kukes, president of Tyumen Oil Co., Russia's fourth-largest oil company and a recipient of Ex-Im guarantees in the past, said the cuts would cripple U.S. oil companies seeking Russian partners and clear the way for European and Chinese rivals.
"This is not charity money," Mr. Kukes said during a Washington visit. "It's a signal of stability. Reversing these cuts is the best thing the Bush administration could do."

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