- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Visiting Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov yesterday praised the Bush administration for showing "a deep interest in Russian approaches" to the U.S.-led war on terrorism and especially to the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
"As I understood it, the president assured me that all those Georgian problems could not be resolved unless the Russian interests are taken into account," Mr. Ivanov told reporters after what he called a "rather long" meeting with President Bush at the White House.
The United States announced last month it would send military advisers to help Georgia fight guerrillas linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network. Formally opening a new front in the anti-terrorism campaign, Washington said up to 200 military advisers would be sent to train and equip anti-terrorist forces in the troubled Caucasus nation.
Russia had maintained that guerrillas from the breakaway republic of Chechnya were hiding in Georgia long before September 11, but the government of President Eduard Shevardnadze had repeatedly dismissed the claim.
Yesterday, Mr. Ivanov said, "We still see that terrorists and criminals are present in the territory of that country."
Georgia would be Washington's third front in the anti-terrorism war, which started in Afghanistan in October and thus far has expanded only to the Philippines.
U.S. forces are in that country participating in exercises and training the military for its battle against Muslim Abu Sayyaf guerrillas.
The defense minister, who met separately with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, also discussed what the administration called a new strategic framework to replace Cold War-style arms control, a White House spokesman said.
Mr. Ivanov said he spared Mr. Bush questions on Washington's nuclear policy despite Moscow's earlier criticism of reported U.S. contingency plans to target Russia and six other countries.
"The issue of the new U.S. nuclear posture has not been discussed with the president," Mr. Ivanov said.
In Moscow on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov offered measured but critical comments on weekend press reports, which quoted classified nuclear posture review texts as outlining contingency plans to target Russia and China as well as "rogue states" Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya and Syria.
"If it is true, it can only give rise to regret and concern, not only from Russia but from the entire world community," the foreign minister said. "Such a plan can destabilize the situation and make it more tense."


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