President Bush will not meet with Yasser Arafat when the two men go to the United Nations this weekend because the Palestinian leader has not done enough to stop terrorism, the White House said yesterday.
“There are no plans to meet with Mr. Arafat in New York,” National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said. “There are responsibilities that come with being the representative of the Palestinian people, and that means to make certain that you do everything that you can to lower the level of violence, everything that you can to root out terrorists, to arrest them.
“We still don’t think that there has been enough in this regard,” she added. “You cannot help us with al Qaeda and hug Hezbollah. That’s not acceptable. Or Hamas. And so the president continues to make that clear to Mr. Arafat.”
Mr. Bush has not met with Mr. Arafat since taking office nearly 10 months ago. By contrast, former President Bill Clinton welcomed Mr. Arafat to the White House more often than any other world leader.
The president will meet with a variety of other world leaders during his visit to the United Nations, rallying them to continue the war against terrorism. Next week, he hosts Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks at the White House and a visit to Mr. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Mr. Bush announced Wednesday that he has decided how many nuclear missiles to trim from the American stockpile. Yesterday, Miss Rice said that reduction will not be subject to approval by Mr. Putin at next week’s summit, even if the Russian leader asks for deeper cuts.
“It’s not a question of an acceptable number on offensive forces to the Russians,” Miss Rice told reporters at the White House.
Instead, the reduction is being driven by Mr. Bush’s belief “that the number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal exceeds the number of nuclear weapons needed for America’s deterrent needs in this particular time,” Miss Rice said.
Russia and the United States each have more than 6,000 long-range nuclear warheads, although those stockpiles are expected to be slashed by roughly two-thirds as part of a deal that would allow the United States to build a missile-defense shield.
On Wednesday, Mr. Bush said he would inform Mr. Putin of the exact reduction at their summit next week. Yesterday, Miss Rice said the president expects the Russian leader to reciprocate by revealing his own planned reductions.
“I would hope that President Putin will also share with President Bush what they are thinking about in terms of their offensive forces,” Miss Rice said. “And so I expect that they will have that conversation.”
If Mr. Putin is pleased with the American reduction, he is expected to give his blessing to Mr. Bush’s plan for a missile-defense shield. Although such a shield is prohibited by the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, Mr. Putin has expressed a willingness to amend the agreement.
But Mr. Bush has repeatedly denounced the ABM Treaty as a Cold War relic that must be scrapped altogether. His chief arms negotiator, Undersecretary of State John Bolton, said on Sept. 2 that the United States is poised to notify Russia that it will unilaterally withdraw from the treaty after a six-month waiting period that is spelled out in the document.
“I tried to convince the Russians when I was in Moscow last week how serious we are about withdrawing from this treaty,” Mr. Bolton said during a speech in Colorado. “I said: ‘You need to start understanding this treaty as a six-month treaty, renewable on a daily basis.’ And I think that got their attention.”
Yesterday, Miss Rice reiterated that the treaty must be scrapped, not amended, because it is preventing the United States from carrying out tests that precede deployment of a missile shield. But she sidestepped repeated questions from The Washington Times about whether next week’s summit is Mr. Putin’s last chance to renounce the ABM Treaty before the United States gives its six-month notice of withdrawal.
“The acquisition of an effective missile-defense system for the United States and its allies is one of his highest priorities,” Miss Rice said of her boss. “He believes the only way to get there is a robust testing and evaluation system.”
She added: “He’s not prepared to permit the treaty to get in the way of doing that robust testing. So we will see about the timing here.”
If and when Mr. Bush extracts the United States from the ABM Treaty, he does not want to become entangled in a new treaty that will eventually become equally obsolete. So the White House is trying to damp down expectations for a groundbreaking agreement next week.
“Don’t expect any breakthrough at any particular meeting,” Miss Rice cautioned. “This is a different relationship than the one that Leonid Brezhnev and Richard Nixon had or even that George Herbert Walker Bush and [Mikhail] Gorbachev had.
“At those meetings, the key moment was when the two sides signed an agreement that said we don’t want to destroy each other,” she said. “And the whole world breathed a sigh of relief, and they turned the atomic clock back from midnight because the only thing that we really had in common was our desire not to annihilate one another.”
She added: “What one should not expect is that one defining moment that you always looked for on the steps of the Kremlin. It’s not the way this is done.”
Regardless of whether an agreement is reached, first lady Laura Bush plans to give Mr. Putin and his wife a Texas-style welcome to the ranch.
“We’re going to have a chuck wagon out on the lawn with cowboys cooking,” Mrs. Bush said during a speech at the National Press Club. “We’re going to have beef tenderloin, of course, and pecan pie.”
The sounds of coyotes will be complemented by the strains of music.
“We have a great little Texas swing band, just five members, acoustical, who sing those great Western songs, like ‘Drifting Along With the Tumbling Tumbleweeds,’” Mrs. Bush said.