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Russia 'Partially' Agrees ABM Treaty Might Be Outdated

Diplomacy: Defense minister leaves room for compromise on issue that could pave way for a U.S. missile shield.


MOSCOW — Russian Defense Minister Sergei B. Ivanov said Saturday that he agrees "partially" with those who call the Antiballistic Missile Treaty outdated. But he said to scrap the treaty entirely would be a mistake.

Emerging from a morning of meetings with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, who had traveled to Moscow to reiterate to Russia that the Bush administration is eager to do away with the treaty, Ivanov appeared to open the door to some compromise.

"The ABM treaty is an important, but not the only, element of strategic stability," Ivanov said. ". . . But before eliminating an agreement, we believe it would be better when something new is in place."

Rumsfeld's visit was intended to lay the groundwork for a Nov. 13 summit in the United States between President Bush and Russian President Vladimir V. Putin. The Bush administration has made scrapping the treaty, the underpinning of arms control between the two former adversaries, a top goal. Russia has been adamantly opposed to dropping the 1972 pact, and Ivanov has been particularly outspoken on the issue.

In the last week, reports have surfaced that a deal might be struck at the summit that would allow deployment of the missile defense system the Bush team envisions while still accommodating Putin's stated interest in reducing strategic nuclear weapons.

The ABM treaty expressly forbids the kind of missile system that Bush wants to build.

Rumsfeld met in one-on-one sessions with Ivanov and Putin that stretched well past their appointed times. The three discussed arms control, the war in Afghanistan and "a number of other issues underpinning our strategic relationship," Rumsfeld said.

In joint remarks to reporters in an ornate room in the Kremlin still decorated with gold-leaf hammer-and-sickle designs from the Soviet era, Rumsfeld and Ivanov struck conciliatory notes.

But Ivanov said that calling the ABM treaty outdated is like calling the International Monetary Fund or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization outdated.

"We are often told that it [the treaty] is a relic of the Cold War. I agree to that partially," Ivanov said. "But it is not only the ABM treaty. All Soviet-U.S. agreements are relics of the Cold War to some extent."

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