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Moscow summit targets NMD

Chirac and Putin
Chirac(left): First visit to Moscow since Putin was elected  

MOSCOW, Russia -- France and Russia -- two of the most vocal opponents to a U.S. missile defence system -- are discussing their opposition to the system.

The National Missile Defense system, heavily backed by President George W. Bush, would be able to shoot down incoming nuclear missiles.

But many world leaders have criticised Washington's ambition -- including President Vladimir Putin who has warned it would mean ripping up the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) and risked a new arms race.

He said that if the U.S. was to press ahead with development other nations would feel free to build up their arsenal of weapons.

French President Jacques Chirac has previously warned that U.S. plans are greatly reminiscent of the Cold War attitude.

But Washington insists the missile defence system would be to protect against what it refers to as "rogue nations" such as North Korea, Iran and Iraq -- but not its former Cold War rivals.

France and Russia -- as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- also discussed sanctions against Iraq and planned changes to the embargo regime.

The U.N. is to discuss this week extending the oil-for-food programme but could instead adopt a U.S. backed British plan for 'smart' sanctions. which would intend to target military sales while allowing more goods to be legally sold to Iraq.

Russia has opposed 'smart' sanctions and has put forward its own proposals for suspending sanctions of Baghdad allows U.N. weapons inspectors back into the country.

It is Chirac's first visit to Russia since Putin was elected March 2000. They held informal talks on Sunday in St. Petersburg, touching on topics as diverse as the war in Chechnya and the plight of native peoples in Siberia.

Chirac is due to meet French and Russian business leaders and students at Moscow University on Tuesday. He is also expected to meet with former President Boris Yeltsin.

• Russian Government
• French Government
• National Missile Defense
• Center for Defense Information

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