RUSSIAN official denies re-examining position on ABM treaty

Friday, July 27th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia denied it was re-examining its position on the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty on Friday, following talks with U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

After meeting with President Vladimir Putin, Rice said Thursday that the two sides were now discussing ``how you move forward, not if you move forward,'' toward construction of the U.S. missile defense shield.

But Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said Moscow had no intention of budging from its position.

During talks with Rice, ``we did not hear any new arguments or new elements that would make us depart from the 1972 ABM treaty,'' Yakovenko said in an interview with RTR state television.

Russian officials say abandoning the ABM treaty would destroy the foundations of global security, leading to a new arms race. But Bush's administration contends the treaty has outlived its usefulness, preventing the United States from developing defenses against potential nuclear threats from such nations as Iran and North Korea.

At their meeting in Genoa, Italy, earlier this week, Putin and Bush unexpectedly announced that talks on missile defense would be linked with talks on cutting strategic nuclear weapons.

Rice and Russian National Security Council chief Vladimir Rushailo said that expert-level talks would begin in early August, and Rice said that Bush and Putin would have the first proposals before them when they meet in October.

But Rushailo said he expected a protracted negotiating process.

Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov said that while meeting Rice, Putin repeated his proposal to cut nuclear warheads on both sides to 1,500. Rice, however, said no specific numbers had been discussed.