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US, Russia reach nuclear arms deal
( 2002-05-13 21:10 ) (7 )

The United States and Russia have reached a long-sought agreement to substantially reduce their nuclear arsenals, President Bush announced Monday in Washington. Bush said he would sign the agreement May 24 in Russia when he meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"The treaty will liquidate the legacy of the Cold War," Bush said in a surprise announcement on the White House lawn as he departed on a trip to Chicago. He said that with the treaty signing, "We will begin the new era of US-Russian relations and that's important."

"This is good news for the American people today," he continued. "It will make the world more peaceful and put behind us the Cold War once and for all."

Undersecretary of State John Bolton and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov worked in Moscow in recent days on the agreement.

The arms control agreement, as envisioned, would require each country to cut its nuclear arsenal to 1,700 to 2,200 warheads from the 6,000 now allowed by the START I treaty.

Bush and Putin agreed to those levels last fall and negotiators have been trying to work out a formal document codifying them in time for the May 23-26 summit.

An administration official said that in reaching terms for an agreement, Russia said it would allow the United States to store some of its nuclear weapons while others would be destroyed. The issue had been a sticking point in the talks.

Russia has also called for some reference to be made to defensive systems - meaning U.S. plans to build a missile defense system. Moscow has generally muted its protests to Bush's decision last year to abandon the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty to proceed with the scheme.

US officials have express confidence in recent days that the deal would be finalized in time for the meeting of the two leaders.

The Russian news service Interfax on Sunday quoted US Secretary of State Colin Powell as saying, "I am sure that when President Bush comes to Moscow the treaty will be signed."

In talks leading up to the summit, both sides have said the document to be signed will be short and likely to be accompanied by a declaration of principles governing future relations.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, in remarks on the television program quoted by Interfax, said the two sides had yet to agree on whether the document would be called an agreement or a treaty. The latter would require ratification by both countries' parliaments.

"Given the importance of the problem, we believe that it must be a treaty," Ivanov was quoted as saying.

Ivanov also said he hoped an agreement would be clinched at talks this week in Iceland redefining Russia's relations with NATO within a new council. The agreement would then be signed in Rome later in the month.

He said the council, to replace a body set up in 1997, would be "not an advisory or consultative body but an executive organ." (Agencies)



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