Bush-Putin summit talks set for May in Moscow, St. Petersburg

Thursday, January 31st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush will hold his next round of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 23 in Moscow and the next two days in St. Petersburg, Russian officials said Thursday.

Secretary of State Colin Powell held a planning session at the Russian Embassy with Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov.

Powell said they discussed what the two sides hope to achieve in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Russian officials later provided the precise dates and said they would be announced later by the White House.

Smiling, Kasyanov said ``relations are good'' and that the two sides would cooperate in several fields.

There is at least one potential trouble spot. Russia is insisting on a formal accord to reduce nuclear weapons arsenals and the Bush administration prefers an informal approach.

The two sides swapped drafts of proposed agreements Wednesday that are designed to set relations on a new and friendlier course.

Powell continued the negotiations Thursday at the Russian Embassy with Kasyanov.

The goal is for Bush and Putin to announce the agreements.

But differences remain. The biggest is Russia's insistence that promises of deep reductions in the two nations' long-range nuclear weapons be legally binding.

The Bush administration prefers an informal arrangement, but has left the door open to the Russian approach.

At talks Tuesday at the State Department, the Russian delegation was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov while Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton headed the U.S. team.

Powell met briefly with Mamedov and separately with Sergei Kiriyenko, chairman of Russia's State Commission for Chemical Disarmament.

The U.S. and Russian delegations are due to meet again in Moscow on Feb. 19.

The main elements of one agreement are that ``it's going to be a legally binding document providing for radical, real and verifiable cuts in strategic weapons'' and that a new ceiling be set for no more than 1,700 to 2,200 warheads on each side within 10 years, the Russian delegation said in a statement.

Bush and Putin pledged deep cuts in nuclear arsenals in their talks in Washington and Crawford, Texas, in November. They disagreed on U.S. aspirations for a missile defense system, and Bush subsequently announced the United States would withdraw from a treaty that bans the creation of a national anti-missile shield.

Russia still believes it was a mistake to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, but is unable to stop Bush.

Administration officials consider arms control negotiations as much a relic of the past as the ban on national missile defenses.

But they have said they are inclined to adapt some provisions of old treaties to provide for verifying that cuts are being carried out. They also have not ruled out codifying the mutual pledges.

``The form of the agreement would be subject to discussion,'' State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Wednesday.

The Russian statement said Powell ``expressed the hope for reaching measurable results'' in St. Petersburg ``that would reflect a new character of U.S.-Russian relations.''

The U.S. draft concerned a proposed declaration of political, military and economic cooperation and the main principles of the arrangement, the statement said.

In a move toward cooperation in the legal field, Powell and Russian Ambassador Yuri Ushakov ratified an agreement reached two years ago for the two nations to help each other in criminal investigations.

The Russian Embassy said in a statement that the agreement ``makes it possible to solve problems in such fields as organized crime and drug traffic'' and is also ``a unique instrument to combat international terrorism.''