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Monday, 13 May, 2002, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Russia and US agree arms cuts
Russian SS25 Topol missile
The two countries have 13,000 warheads between them
President George W Bush says the United States and Russia have reached agreement on cutting their nuclear arsenals, clearing the way for what they described as a new era in their relations.

News of the agreement, which was confirmed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, came after talks in Moscow between US Under Secretary of State John Bolton and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov.

It [the treaty] will make the world more peaceful and put behind us the Cold War once and for all

George W Bush

Mr Bush said the agreement would be signed in Moscow towards the end of May when he meets Mr Putin for a summit.

The two leaders hope to cut the number of nuclear warheads on each side from their current levels of between 6,000 and 7,000 to between 1,700 and 2,200 over the next 10 years.

"This treaty will liquidate the legacy of the Cold War," said Mr Bush.

"It will make the world more peaceful and put behind us the Cold War once and for all.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Putin: "We are satisfied with our joint work"

"We will begin the new era of US-Russian relations and that's important."

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said some weapons would be put into storage while others would be dismantled.

Mr Putin said for his part that the two sides were "satisfied" with their work.

Mr Bush and Mr Putin are due to meet from 23-26 May in both Moscow and Russia's second city, St Petersburg.

Russia 'loses out'

BBC Moscow correspondent Nikolai Gorshkov says President Bush's announcement may have taken the Russian leadership by surprise, coming as it did out of Washington and not Moscow where the negotiations were actually held.

It came just minutes after the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that the two sides had managed to bring their positions closer together, but made no mention of a done deal.

US President George W Bush
Bush will sign the agreement in Moscow later this month

Apparently, Moscow was aiming at a gradual acknowledgement that it had climbed down in the face of the Americans' intention to go it alone.

But our correspondent says that after President Bush jumped the gun and denied Russia this face-saving opportunity, President Putin had some catching up to do, admitting that the sides had effectively drafted the strategic arms reduction treaty.

Pegged to it is the declaration on the new strategic relationship between the United States and Russia, putting it on the same level as Washington's major Western allies.

Sticking points

The BBC's Pentagon correspondent, Nick Childs, says the Bush administration has been trying to avoid a full treaty, with all the ratification hurdles that would require.

But the new agreement is unlikely to be as elaborate as those of the Cold War.

Among the sticking points has been Washington's desire to store most of the surplus warheads, in case they are needed later.

Russia, by contrast, has wanted them destroyed.

Another obstacle to agreement has been America's anti-missile programme, which Washington says is only aimed at "rogue nations" with missile capabilities.

Moscow sees the programme as a direct threat to the two states' strategic arms parity.

The BBC's David Shukman
"It could be a seismic shift between old enemies"
John Holum, former US Under-Secretary of State
"We have to worry about the potential for nuclear expertise to leak out"
Joseph Cirincione, Carnegie Endowment for Peace
"This is unquestionably a positive step"
See also:

13 May 02 | Americas
New kind of arms treaty
24 Apr 02 | Americas
US cuts short Moscow arms talks
14 Dec 01 | Americas
US welcomes Putin's missile pledge
14 Nov 01 | Americas
Putin pledges 'radical' arms cuts
04 Dec 01 | Americas
Pentagon hails missile test success
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