POWELL, Ivanov meet on sidelines of NATO meeting

Wednesday, May 30th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) _ Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed U.S. plans for a national missile defense with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on Wednesday but didn't outline any new incentives to make the plan more palatable to Moscow.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Powell and Ivanov will leave it to President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin to grapple with the issue when they meet next month.

The missile plan is one of the most contentious issues between the two nations.

``He didn't come with any new proposals,'' Boucher said of Powell. It was a reference to reports that the Bush administration is prepared to offer Moscow a series of incentives in exchange for support for the program.

These includes the U.S. purchase of Russia's S-300 surface-to-air missiles and joint co-operation for upgrading Russia's early warning systems, some U.S. officials have suggested.

Russia has expressed opposition to the plan, suggesting it could lead to a new arms race and undermine what it views as a bedrock disarmament agreement: the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty.

Bush has dismissed the ABM as a relic of the Cold War that should not block protecting the United States from missile attack.

``The whole idea of missile defense will be discussed by the presidents,'' Boucher said. Bush and Putin meet June 16 in Slovenia.

Powell and Ivanov met for about half an hour on the sidelines of the final day of a two-day NATO meeting.

Ivanov and Powell also talked about the Middle East, Afghanistan, and efforts by the United States and Britain to win Russian support for a series of sanctions on Iraq.

The current phase of the U.N. humanitarian ``oil-for-food'' program expires on June 3. So far, Russia has opposed proposed revisions in the sanctions program sought by the United States and Britain.

No agreement was reached in Budapest, but Boucher said Powell was hopeful that an agreement could be reached by negotiators at the United Nations in New York before the deadline.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration sought to put the best face on NATO's continuing rebuff of U.S. missile defense proposals.

The Bush administration failed to win NATO's support at the Budapest meeting for stronger language in a statement pledging to continue talks with Washington over Bush's plan for a shield against missile attack.

However, NATO ministers did bow to a request by Powell in deleting from a joint statement any reference to the ABM treaty. In past statements, NATO leaders have referred to the treaty as the ``cornerstone of strategic stability.''

Despite criticism of the missile defense concept by some allies, mainly Germany and France, the United States has ``everything we want at this stage,'' Boucher told a news briefing.

``We didn't come out here with a plan, we didn't come out here for approval of a plan,'' Boucher said.

Powell's delegation had pushed for NATO to include strong language in its policy statement acknowledging a ``common threat'' from missile attack from terrorists or hostile nations.

Instead, the alliance only said in the statement that it welcomed continued consultations with Washington on the proposal.

In his only appearance before reporters on Wednesday, a picture-taking session with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Powell declined to take questions.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi, meanwhile, told reporters that he didn't see the missile defense issue as a defeat for the Bush administration.

``I'm of a more positive mind,'' he said. ``The U.S. government is consulting with allies, with Asian countries and with Russia. This will be a major issue at the U.S.-Russian summit in Slovenia. No one is saying there are no dangers. We need to see if the international instruments in place are adequate.''