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Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 15:41 GMT
Russia presses US over nuclear plans
Russian SS25 ICBM
The latest spat comes after a split over nuclear arms cuts
The Russian Defence Minister, Sergei Ivanov, says he will seek clarification on a Pentagon report which lists Russia among seven countries as potential targets of an American nuclear strike.

Mr Ivanov, who is on a visit to the United States, is due to meet his American counterpart Donald Rumsfeld, later on Wednesday.

There is a feeling that the document was written during the Cold War

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov
The Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, has said the report seems to reflect Cold War attitudes, not in the spirit of current Russian-American relations.

Russia, China, Iraq, Iran, Libya, North Korea and Syria feature in a classified Pentagon nuclear report, leaked by US newspapers at the weekend.

The report, presented to Congress in early January, allegedly revealed that the military had been asked to draft plans to use nuclear weapons against these seven countries.

The American Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has said Washington does not plan to use nuclear weapons, but must be ready to deter attacks that use weapons of mass destruction.

Reduction commitment

On Tuesday, Sergei Ivanov met US President George W Bush to discuss nuclear weapons reductions and terrorism.

Mr Bush reiterated his commitment to reduce US nuclear weapons, said a White House spokesman.

Potential US nuclear targets
North Korea

The spokesman also said Mr Bush and Mr Ivanov discussed US military assistance to Georgia.

Washington is considering sending military trainers to Georgia to help the country control what Mr Bush called "terrorists working closely with al Qaeda".

However, Mr Ivanov said he did not raise Moscow's concern about the new Pentagon study, but had discussed the matter earlier with Mr Rumsfeld.

Mr Ivanov said he would give more details later on Wednesday during a news conference with Mr Rumsfeld.

Arms row

Both sides are gearing up for a summit in May between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mr Bush.

Russian president Vladimir Putin
Putin will discuss nuclear issues with Bush in May

They are hoping to sign a deal on nuclear arms reduction, but Russia says work on an agreement is going very slowly and that negotiators might fail to meet the May deadline.

President Bush has promised to cut the US nuclear arsenal to 1,700-2,200 warheads from the 6,000 both countries are currently permitted, while President Putin has said Russia could go even lower, possibly to 1,500.

But the US has since made clear that it will place some of the weapons in storage, rather than destroy them.

See also:

13 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea condemns 'nuclear blackmail'
10 Jan 02 | Europe
Russia attacks US missile plans
08 Jan 02 | Americas
US denies nuclear test rethink
13 Dec 01 | Americas
America withdraws from ABM treaty
02 May 00 | World
The world's nuclear arsenal
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