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Saturday, 25 May, 2002, 06:37 GMT 07:37 UK
Iran 'on course for nuclear status'
President Bush, Laura Bush are welcomed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila at an informal dinner
The summit has cemented a new, warmer relationship
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has insisted that there is clear evidence that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

They've been getting assistance and they've been making good progress

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Iran's nuclear programme
Speaking in Washington, Mr Rumsfeld said Iran was making what he described as an unambiguous effort to develop a range of weapons of mass destruction.

The issue of Iran created friction at the US-Russian summit in Moscow, where Presidents Bush and Putin publicly disagreed on the sale of Russian nuclear energy technology to Iran.

Iran is one of the states which President Bush has accused of belonging to an "axis of evil" - states that support terrorist organisations.

Iran assisted

Mr Rumsfeld insisted that the Iranians were "getting assistance" in becoming a nuclear power.

"They've been making good progress, and they've been determined to accomplish that goal."

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Rumsfeld insisted Russia was helping Iran
"I'm not going to get into how long it will take them, but there's no question but that they're on a path to achieve that."

At their summit on Friday, Mr Bush raised concerns that Russia might be helping Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

The Bush administration believes that the construction of the first Iranian nuclear reactor at Bushehr, with technical assistance from Moscow, represents the world's single biggest weapons proliferation problem.

But Mr Putin defended Russia's contract to build a nuclear power plant in Iran as having only an "economic character" with no implications for weapons proliferation.

The Russian president, for his part, said Moscow had concerns about American nuclear co-operation with North Korea and the development of certain missile programmes in Taiwan.

Nuclear cuts

The American and Russian leaders are to have further talks, in St Petersburg, following Friday's treaty signing.

Arsenals and Treaties
  • 1972: US and USSR sign first arms pact, but weapons arsenals keep growing
  • 1986: Soviet stockpile reaches its height
  • 1987: Deal agreed to eliminate short and medium-range weapons
  • 1987-1993: USSR slashes short and medium-range weapons by half, the US reduces its arsenal by 72%
  • 1993: US signs a treaty to cut strategic long-range warheads with the nuclear states of the former Soviet Union

    Click here for details of nuclear arsenals and treaties

  • Their agreement to reduce the number of nuclear warheads by two-thirds was the first major nuclear disarmament deal for almost 10 years.

    The treaty aims to cut the nuclear arsenals of each side from current levels of between 6,000 and 7,000 to between 1,700 and 2,200 over the next 10 years.

    As well as talks on arms and Iran, Mr Bush has been discussing economic ties between the US and Russia.

    Russia is hoping for US help to gain entry to the World Trade Organisation, but trade relations between the two have recently been marred by squabbles over poultry imports and US steel tariffs.

    St Petersburg, the former imperial capital of Russia, is Mr Putin's home town.

    Mr Bush will spend most of his time there sightseeing, before flying on to France and then Italy for the last leg of his European tour.

    The BBC's Tim Wilcox
    "This is the fifth time in under a year the two have met"
    William Cohen, former US Defence Secretary
    "The basis for future discussions has been laid"

    Key stories


    Bush tour diary

    Country profiles
    See also:

    24 May 02 | Europe
    24 May 02 | Europe
    23 May 02 | Europe
    24 May 02 | Media reports
    14 May 02 | In Depth
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