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Wednesday, 22 August, 2001, 21:17 GMT 22:17 UK
Washington denies setting ABM deadline
President Bush and President Putin
The two sides remain divided over missile defence
United States officials deny setting a new deadline for an agreement with the Russians on the issue of missile defence.

Reported remarks made by US Under-Secretary of State John Bolton to a radio station in Moscow seemed to imply that the US would move forward on missile defence unilaterally if no agreement was reached by November.

But the BBC's State Department correspondent, Jon Leyne, says that both the White House and the State Department were quick to deny the reports.

They added that Mr Bolton had said that there was no artificial deadline.

The United States wants to find a common solution with Russia - either to jointly abandon the agreement or find a way to, also jointly, step beyond the restrictions and limitations imposed by it

John Bolton
Mr Bolton, in Moscow for two days of arms talks, was reported as saying that the US could withdraw unilaterally from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty if no agreement was reached on its missile defence plans by November.

He made the remarks during an exclusive interview with Echo Moskvy radio station.

Although he did not call November an official deadline, he said Washington needed meaningful progress before the two countries' presidents hold a summit that month.

Russia insists

Russia remains committed to the ABM treaty, which prohibits the development of the national missile defence system envisaged by the Bush administration.

Russia has "stressed that eventual reductions in offensive strategic weapons are conditional on maintaining the ABM treaty in its present form," the foreign ministry said in a statement on Mr Bolton's meetings in Moscow.

The BBC's correspondent notes that Russia has said it would not negotiate properly until it knew more about the US missile defence plans.

But Washington insists it has told Moscow as much as it can.

Russian officials say they have reiterated Mr Putin's offer to link proposals to reduce offensive weapons on both sides with the missile defence talks.

However, America says it wants to reduce its own nuclear arsenal unilaterally as well, without being tied into new treaties with Moscow.

Common solution

Mr Bolton is the third senior US security official to visit Russia since Presidents Bush and Putin agreed last month to new consultations linking missile defence to talks on reducing nuclear arsenals.

John Bolton
Bolton has been in Moscow for arms talks
"The United States wants to find a common solution with Russia - either to jointly abandon the agreement or find a way to, also jointly, step beyond the restrictions and limitations imposed by it," the radio station's web site quoted Mr Bolton as saying in a Russian translation.

"Otherwise... we will have to make use of our right, fixed in the treaty, to leave it."

Under the treaty either side can abandon the agreement as long as they give six months' notice.

Washington has warned in the past that the missile defence project will continue even if Russia's opposition persists.

But our State Department correspondent notes that although Washington does not need Moscow's agreement to move forward, President George W Bush could face major problems in Congress if he does not do his best to placate the Russians.

See also:

12 Jul 01 | Americas
Death throes of ABM treaty
15 Jul 01 | Americas
Russia condemns US missile test
13 Jul 01 | Americas
Critics take aim at missile defence
13 Jun 01 | Europe
Bush upbeat on missile defence
29 May 01 | Europe
Nato baulks at US missile plan
15 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
US meets China over missile defence
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