U.S. pushes ahead with NMD plan
MOSCOW, Russia -- The U.S. says it will push ahead with its missile defence plan despite Russian opposition, but hopes for quick progress on arms talks.
U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice met Russian President Vladimir Putin and his security adviser Vladimir Rushailo on Thursday in Moscow.
She said after the meetings that the U.S. will go ahead with a test system for the proposed national missile defence (NMD), which Russia opposes because it violates the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
"President (George W.) Bush made it very clear that he believes there is a threat, a new threat, and we will need to move, to go beyond ABM so that we can have a serious testing and evaluation programme that gets us a solution to the threat," Rice said.
"(Bush) has not set a specific deadline, but it should be obvious to all concerned that the president believes that this is something that will happen relatively soon," she said.
Earlier this week, Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush announced that talks on missile defence would be linked with talks on cutting strategic nuclear weapons.
Rice stressed that talks should move along quickly -- first on the expert level, then between ministers and then between Bush and Putin at their next planned meeting in October in Shanghai, China.
However, Rushailo said the strategic discussions would be lengthy and would require legislative changes that would further slow the process.
"This work calls for a long amount of time .... I'd like to remind you of the worlds of President Putin that the national security of the Russian Federation should be maintained," he said.
Russia's defence minister Sergei Ivanov, who also met Rice, promised to pursue "serious, open and constructive dialogue" with the U.S. on arms control.
The talks come as the U.S. looks to press ahead with a missile defence system to protect the nation against what Washington sees as threats from "rogue states" like North Korea, Iran and Iraq.
A Russian delegation is due to leave for Washington on August 7, led by first deputy head of the General Staff, Yuri Baluyevsky.
Ivanov described his talks with Rice as constructive, but said no concrete agreements could be reached during such a short meeting.
"Russia and the United States are looking for ways to create a new, even more serious and strong basis for an international security system, including the key question -- strategic stability, which consists of offensive and defensive weapons," he said in televised remarks.
Rice said talks also covered conflicts in the Middle East, the Balkans and in Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan, the Interfax news agency said.
Her trip, with Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, represents the most senior delegation from President George W. Bush's administration.
Russian media said Rice, who speaks competent Russian, met Ivanov one-to-one for 40 minutes.
Rice said the two countries needed to work out a new security arrangement to replace the "balance of terror" present during the Cold War.
"The Cold War is over, and it is time to think about a new basis for co-operative relations ... It is absolutely critical, very important, that we replace the old basis of threat against one another, threat to annihilate one another, with a new basis of co-operative ways," said Rice, quoted by The Associated Press.
"We should not want to hold on to that old system."
Ivanov, quoted by Interfax news agency, said he was "less worried now, than at the beginning of the year, that either side could take measures of some sort liable to endanger security."
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