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The BBC's Linda Duffin
"North Korea has been branded a rogue state"
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BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus
"The Russian and American views of missile defence are thousands of kilometres apart"
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Friday, 9 June, 2000, 14:04 GMT 15:04 UK
Rift over Star Wars
Mr Putin wants a new treaty to prevent an arms race in space
Talks in Brussels have failed to resolve deep differences between the United States and Russia over their respective plans for missile defence.

US Defence Secretary William Cohen described Moscow's recent proposals to build an anti-missile system jointly with Nato countries as totally inadequate.

He was speaking after the Russian Defence Minister, Igor Sergeyev, had briefed Nato counterparts on his country's proposed system, without providing much detail to flesh out the plan.

The Russian proposal comes as the US is deciding whether to deploy a limited anti-missile defence shield aimed at shooting down long-range missiles launched by what Washington calls "rogue states", such as North Korea, Iran and Iraq.

Any effective defence for Russia, the United States or Europe would have to work against long-range missiles

US Defence Secretary William Cohen
Mr Cohen reiterated that whatever the Russians had in mind could perhaps supplement, but certainly not replace, the US proposals.

"It's basically a statement about an idea," he said after bilateral talks with Mr Sergeyev. "It's not a system."

Mr Cohen said it would leave much of Europe and the US defenceless against long-range missiles.

And he indicated to reporters that Washington and Moscow still seemed to be talking at cross purposes.

Nato questions

Mr Sergeyev had emerged from the Nato meeting insisting that Russia's ideas were serious and that they would not destabilise the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty.

Igor Sergeyev
Mr Sergeyev provided few new details
This agreement greatly restricts missile defences, and the Americans say it would need to be amended to allow the sort of defensive system they want.

Mr Sergeyev's description of what Moscow has in mind, however, did not appear to go far enough to permit a quick assessment by the allies.

Nato Secretary-General George Robertson said Mr Sergeyev had "mentioned" the proposal, but he stressed that further clarification was needed.

"We're not in a position to evaluate the points made this morning," he told a news conference. "Questions have been asked and clearly they will be dealt with at a later stage."

The Americans have already begun testing some of the critical technologies needed for their system.

The planned shield would depend upon interceptor missiles located in the US which would target an incoming missile in space during the middle phase of its trajectory.

Russian plan

The Russians fear this might compromise aspects of their own deterrent force, and they - and even some of the Nato allies - have opposed the US plan.

The proposal... does not violate in any way, does not compromise in any way an ABM treaty

Russian Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev
Their own proposal was put forward on Monday by President Vladimir Putin after summit talks with US President Bill Clinton.

BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus says the Russians appear to envisage a more localised theatre missile defence system that would be able to hit missiles with a potential range of some 3,500 km (2,200 miles).

It would be located near to countries deemed to be a threat, and would target attacking missiles during the initial, or boost phase, of their flight.

This, the Russians seem to believe, would be more in tune with the spirit of the ABM treaty.

But senior American officials have told the BBC that the Russian plan would face significant technical hurdles - and would still require changes to the ABM treaty.

The Americans - who want a system in place by 2005 - say their plans are driven by the emerging threat from what they call rogue states.

Our correspondent says there is also a good deal of US domestic politics in Washington's proposals, especially in an election year.

Mr Sergeyev's visit to Nato headquarters - the first by a Russian defence minister since December 1998 - was meant to mark a mending in military ties, ruptured by the Nato air war against Yugoslavia and the US bombings of Iraq.

The defence ministers agreed on a programme for co-operation and contacts between their militaries this year.

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See also:

04 Jun 00 | Europe
Missile row mars Kremlin talks
24 Mar 00 | Americas
Russia calls for 'Star Wars' ban
19 Jan 00 | Americas
US missile test fails
20 Aug 99 | Americas
Russia critical of US missile plan
19 Jan 00 | Americas
Analysis: Tough missile choice
05 Jun 00 | Europe
Why Russia fears US 'Star Wars'
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