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Russia Says Move to Dump ABM May Destabilize World
Published on Thursday, December 6, 2001 by Reuters
Russia Says Move to Dump ABM May Destabilize World
 
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia warned the United States on Thursday against unilateral moves to dump a landmark pact banning missile defense, saying it could destabilize the international situation already tense due to Afghanistan .

Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov told visiting U.S. Under-Secretary of State John Bolton that a move by the United States to leave the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty would be a mistake, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

``During the talks the Russian side once again noted the negative consequences for international stability of any U.S. decision to unilaterally leave the 1972 ABM treaty, which is supported by the vast majority of countries,'' it said.

``It would be particularly dangerous given the current difficult international situation,'' the communique said, a clear reference to the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan.

The U.S. embassy was unavailable for comment on the meeting between Mamedov and Bolton, who arrived in Moscow to prepare this weekend's talks in the Russian capital between Secretary of State Colin Powell and senior Russian officials.

The United States and Russia, legal successor to treaties signed by the Soviet Union, can give six months notice to quit the ABM pact.

But while Russia sees it as the keystone of strategic stability -- it provided the basis for more than 30 other arms control accords -- President Bush views the treaty as a relic of the Cold War era.

The ABM treaty bans the sort of shield that Bush wants to build to protect the United States from attacks by so-called ''rogue states'' like North Korea, Iraq, Iran and Libya. Moscow partly shares Washington's concerns but says the danger is exaggerated and that international terrorism poses a more pressing threat. However, the two sides have agreed to pursue talks on the issue in tandem with deep cuts to their nuclear arsenals. The exact scope and nature of those nuclear warhead reductions have yet to be thrashed out.

Defense analysts believe a possible compromise could see Washington offer arsenal cuts nearer the lower end of the 2,200-1,700 range on the table, while allowing missile defense testing and retaining the ABM treaty in some form.

Moscow's muted reaction to this week's successful downing of a dummy warhead on a ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean, suggested the two sides, partners in the war on terrorism launched after September's attacks on U.S. cities, are still searching for a compromise.

Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited

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