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Bush, Putin progress on arms talks

Monday, October 22, 2001

SHANGHAI, China -- President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that terrorist attacks on America unified their nations like never before, raising hope for long-sought agreements on a U.S. missile defense system and cutting nuclear stockpiles.

The negotiations for a new strategic framework were given a forceful nudge by Bush when he privately urged his Russian counterpart to quickly compromise or squander the opportunity to reduce nuclear arsenals.

"The thing that's really bound us together most right now is our common desire to fight terrorism," Bush said after their third meeting in five months. Talks will resume when Putin visits the United States in three weeks.

White House officials said later that Bush is prepared to go forward with missile shield plans without Russia unless a deal can be struck by January. Indeed, his advisers recommended that Bush impose the deadline during one-on-one talks with Putin, but the president decided at the last minute not to personally deliver the message.

Though eager to build a missile shield, Bush does not want to push Putin too hard because the Russian is critical to the success of U.S. military assaults on terrorist-harboring Afghanistan.

The meeting, a spicy mix of politics and promise, took place at the close of an Asia-Pacific economic summit that focused on the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

The 20 leaders approved a statement condemning the "murderous deeds" of the Sept. 11 suicide hijackers. In a setback for Bush, they failed to mention Afghanistan or Osama bin Laden -- suspected mastermind of the attacks on Washington and New York.

Furthermore, several leaders, including Chinese President Jiang Zemin and the Russian president, urged Bush to end the war as soon as possible. Bush has said it could last two years.

Bush lauds Asian support

In a brief news conference, Bush said the Asian leaders defied terrorists merely by meeting under one roof and denied that their support of the United States was soft.

"It was strong, it was steady, and it's real," he said.

The president has ambitious but untested plans for a defense system that could protect the United States and its allies from missiles launched by Iraq, North Korea or other rogue states. Russia and several other nations fear developing an anti-missile shield would spark another nuclear arms race.

Bush and Putin agreed in July to pursue talks along two parallel tracks: Putin's desire to reduce costly nuclear stockpiles and Bush's wish to scuttle the 29-year-old Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty that forbids anti-missile tests.

"The events of September 11 make it clearer than ever that a Cold War ABM treaty that prevents us from defending our people is outdated and, I believe, dangerous," the president said.

Putin reiterated his support of the treaty, saying it brings an "element of stability" to the world, but seemed open to Bush's argument that the world must adapt to increasing threats.

"We should react adequately to possible threats in the future," Putin said.

Putin later seemed to dismiss Bush's claim that the Sept. 11 attacks, and the possibility that terrorists could commandeer missiles, heightened the need for a missile shield

"It would be difficult for me to agree that some terrorists will be able to capture intercontinental missiles ... to use them," Putin said.


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