- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2001

The United States and Russia reported "continuation of progress" on missile defense and strategic security issues yesterday after talks between Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov at the State Department.

As the diplomats worked toward an agreement on offensive-weapons cuts and the future of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser, said Washington was determined to "move beyond" the 1972 accord banning missile defenses.

"Now we are working with the Russians and trying to come to a better understanding of what that might mean," she told reporters at the White House.

Although the Bush administration has made clear it will withdraw from the pact if the Russians insist on preserving it in its current form, Mr. Bush prefers a comprehensive agreement with Moscow, whose cooperation in the war on terrorism is essential. The two sides are trying to reconcile differences before Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the United States later this month.

"We've been talking with the Russians at the head-of-state level, at the ministerial level, and at the expert level for a number of months now," Miss Rice said. "We believe that we are understanding each other better, that we're making progress. But I would caution against expecting any particular deal at any particular time."

Mr. Powell and Mr. Ivanov had several meetings, both by themselves and in larger groups, during a workday that began at 8 a.m., the State Department said.

"There was a continuation of progress," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, "but I really can't report on a particular issue at a particular moment."

He said the two sides discussed "strategic framework issues, including offensive weapons, defense issues, nonproliferation, counterproliferation" and the "campaign against terrorism." The NATO-Russia relationship "was another subject how to improve and enhance NATO's cooperation with Russia," he said.

Mr. Ivanov, who left Washington soon after the talks, told reporters that the two sides wanted to ensure that "documents on the key issues" were ready for the Bush-Putin meetings Nov. 13 and 14 in Washington and Crawford, Texas.

Miss Rice said the administration was not engaging in arms-control negotiations "in which we and the Russians need to try to match warhead for warhead how many we have or how many we don't have." The main issue is "how we see our deterrent needs" in terms of levels, "the period of drawdown and how they are structured," she said.

Washington is reluctant to reduce its nuclear stockpile to the 1,500 warheads suggested by the Russians, but administration officials have indicated that Moscow is pleased with the U.S. effort to cut offensive weapons. Under the 1993 Start II agreement, the arsenals were to be cut to 3,500 warheads each, but the pact was never enforced.

Administration officials now are discussing levels around 2,000, according to news reports. The United States currently has about 7,000 warheads, while Russia has about 6,000.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld leaves for Moscow today to meet with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. Yesterday, Mr. Powell's deputy, Richard Armitage, held talks in Moscow with his counterpart, Vyacheslav Trubnikov.


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