US envoy meets Russian foreign minister; no deadline set for resolving ABM dispute

Friday, August 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MOSCOW (AP) _ Undersecretary of State John Bolton said Friday the United States has set no deadline for agreement with Russia about the future of the 1972 ABM treaty, an accord Washington claims is outdated and will hinder its plans to develop a national missile system.

Some news reports earlier this week quoted Bolton as saying in a Russian radio interview that the United States had set a November deadline to overcome differences concerning the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Both Bolton and U.S. officials in Washington said afterward that this was not the case.

``There are no deadlines,'' Bolton told reporters following a 45-minute meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. ``There weren't any deadlines on Tuesday, and there aren't any deadlines today.''

Russia remains firmly opposed to scrapping the treaty, which it considers a cornerstone of international security. Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought in recent months to rally other countries, such as China, to the treaty's defense.

China urged President Bush on Friday to heed international concerns and act cautiously after he said the United States would withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

``We hope the U.S. government will seriously consider the position of the international community and proceed with caution,'' the Foreign Ministry said Friday of Bush's planned withdrawal.

President Bush has indicated he hopes to reach an accommodation with the Russians to move beyond the treaty, possibly replacing it with another arrangement that would allow the United States to develop and deploy missile defenses, which are prohibited by the treaty.

Bush considers the treaty a Cold War relic that doesn't respond to the security threats the United States faces, including ballistic missiles that could be deployed by countries hostile to America such as North Korea or Iran.

Bolton said after Friday's meeting that he discussed consultations held earlier this week with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov with Ivanov, who has just returned to Moscow from his summer vacation.

The main subject of his discussions was to prepare for a Sept. 19 meeting between Ivanov and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as to get ready for two meetings this fall between Bush and Putin, first in China in October and later in the United States in November at Bush's Texas ranch.

``We discussed most significantly the preparations that we're making for Foreign Minister Ivanov's trip to Washington to meet with Secretary Powell on Sept. 19 and the further preparations that they will make for the meetings for the two presidents,'' Bolton said.

``That was really the subject of our discussion,'' Bolton stressed.

Earlier, Bolton said the United States hoped to make progress on the missile defense issue before the November summit. But, Bolton said, if no agreement is reached, Washington intends to use its right to withdraw from the treaty after giving six months' notification.

Heading toward a waiting car at the Russian Foreign Ministry, Bolton said that he intended to do some serious sightseeing, including a trip to the Kremlin, before leaving Russia.