- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2002

LONDON British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw tried to close the growing diplomatic gap with the United States yesterday by giving his wholehearted support for missile defense and defending Washington from accusations that it is "unilateralist."
Britain has been wary of America's plans to build an anti-missile shield, having long regarded the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty as the bulwark of international arms control.
But yesterday the foreign secretary brushed away the fears in many European capitals that the United States' decision to abandon the treaty would fuel a new arms race.
He said a viable defense against missiles could "give pause to those tempted down the path of proliferation even before they begin."
In a speech to the Center for Defense Studies at King's College in London, Mr. Straw said: "It is possible that missile defense may pave the way for greater progress on disarmament, not an arms race.
"Missile defense is not an alternative to the wider nonproliferation effort, but could be part of it."
Mr. Straw's words could go some way to easing growing tension between Britain and the United States over the direction of the "war against terrorism."
The foreign secretary has angered Washington in recent weeks by questioning the treatment of prisoners taken from Afghanistan to the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Mr. Straw also appeared to dismiss President Bush's State of the Union address as mere politicking before U.S. midterm elections.
But yesterday, he criticized those who "caricature the U.S. position on arms control as unilateralist" and supported the position of John Bolton, U.S. undersecretary of state and one of the more hawkish members of the Bush administration, who rejected a draft protocol on enforcing the Biological Weapons Convention.
But clear differences between Britain and the United States over arms control remain. In his speech, Mr. Straw restated Britain's commitment to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which the United States has not ratified.
He mentioned the danger posed by Iraq and missile tests carried out by North Korea, but omitted any mention of Iran, the third country in the "axis of evil."


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