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Putin opens door to further talks on ABM treaty

Russian President Putin, left, and U.S. President Bush in China on Sunday  

SHANGHAI, China (CNN) -- The leaders of the United States and Russia, while affirming a close alliance over the global war against terrorism, did not reach an agreement Sunday over President George W. Bush's desire to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

"We discussed significantly lowering offensive nuclear weapon arsenals within a framework that includes limited defenses that are able to protect both our lands from political blackmail, potential terrorist attack," Bush said. "Both our nations must be able to defend our nations from the new threats of the 21st century, including long-range ballistic missiles."

Putin indicated his support for future talks on the United States' position, but said he did not agree with Bush's assessment of the "new threats of the 21st century."

"I agree with many positions that the president puts forward and one cannot but agree with them in such complex issues like the ABM treaty," Putin said. "But it would be difficult for me to agree that some terrorists will be able to capture intercontinental missiles and will be able to use them."

Bush and Putin plan to hold a summit in mid-November in Washington, involving formal negotiations on contentious issues in U.S.-Russian relations, including arms control and missile defense. As a sign of friendship, Bush has invited the Russian leader to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, after the negotiations.

Sources told CNN that Bush had hoped to reach an agreement with Putin on Sunday, so the United States could pull out of the ABM treaty in six months. The six-month time frame was actually an extension beyond an earlier proposal to negate the treaty by the end of this year. Bush indicated he now hopes to reach that agreement in future negotiations.

The United States has already begun a missile defense testing program. U.S. officials maintain that if it continues, it will put the United States in violation of the ABM treaty by the spring of 2002.

The United States is required under the ABM treaty to notify Russia of its plans to pull out of the agreement. The treaty is considered by many, including Russia, to be the cornerstone of global arms control. The United States and the Soviet Union signed the ABM treaty in 1972. It precludes either side from developing a future missile defense system. The Bush administration has said the treaty is an obsolete relic of the Cold War.

Officials noted a new arms control treaty to replace the ABM is still "a possibility."

The two leaders met after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Shanghai, in which Asian leaders issued a strong political statement against terrorism and guidelines for cooperation in cracking down on moving money, goods and people across borders.

In a news conference following the meeting, Putin avowed his strong allegiance with the United States, stating that Russia supports the military campaign as a "measured and adequate" response to the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"If we start fighting terrorism, it should be completed because otherwise terrorists might have an impression that they are not vulnerable and in that case their actions would be more dangerous," Putin said.

His comment stood in contrast to the statements of other APEC leaders, such as Indonesia and Malaysia, who indicated that they hoped the military action would quickly lead to a political solution.


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