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Wednesday, 24 April, 2002, 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK
US cuts short Moscow arms talks
President Putin and President Bush
Putin and Bush say they both want to cut nuclear arsenals
A senior American arms control negotiator has left Russia, apparently cutting short talks on a nuclear disarmament agreement that both sides hope to sign at a presidential summit next month.

US Patriot anti-missile system
Russia called US withdrawal from the ABM treaty 'a mistake'
The US Embassy in Moscow gave no reason for the departure of the Undersecretary of State, John Bolton, a day earlier than planned.

Neither side spoke of the outcome of the talks which were expected to continue during Wednesday, but Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Valery Loshchinin said the negotiations were "not proceeding very easily".

The talks were the latest round of consultations aimed at reducing both countries' nuclear arsenals, ahead of a summit between George W Bush and Vladimir Putin in Moscow and St Petersburg in May.

Stumbling block

Both presidents are committed to reducing current strategic arsenals to between 1,500 and 2,200 warheads each from the current levels of 6,000 and 7,000 over the next decade.

Click here for details of the nuclear balance

President Bush initially pressed for an informal agreement, but later agreed to Russia's demand to have a formal and legally binding accord.

Mr Putin has been insisting on the need for a "reliable and verifiable agreement".

However, the talks have run into trouble over Moscow's objection to stockpiling missiles rather than destroying them.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is due to meet US Secretary of State Colin Powell next week in Washington to review the progress of the talks.

Russian experts say that the relations between the two countries - bolstered by Moscow's support for the US-led war on terror - would remain strong even if the agreement is not signed at the May summit.

Despite a public outcry in Russia, President Putin has softened his objections to the US decision to unilaterally withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty (ABM) last year, enabling Washington to proceed with building its anti-missile shield.

President Putin said the US decision was a mistake, but it would not harm Russia's security interests.

Nuclear arsenal information

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See also:

14 Nov 01 | Americas
Putin pledges 'radical' arms cuts
14 Dec 01 | Americas
US welcomes Putin's missile pledge
04 Dec 01 | Americas
Pentagon hails missile test success
14 Nov 01 | Americas
Bush's missile defence dilemma
16 Jul 01 | Europe
Why Russia fears US 'Star Wars'
13 Jul 01 | Americas
Q & A: Son of Star Wars
12 Dec 01 | Americas
ABM Treaty explained
12 Dec 01 | Americas
Analysis: ABM treaty withdrawal
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