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Bush, Putin Take New Approach to Arms Negotiations - 2001-07-22

The United States and Russia are taking a new approach to arms negotiations. President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin say they want to link talks on offensive weapons with consideration of American plans to build a missile defense system. The two leaders met in Genoa, Italy, before Mr. Bush went on to Rome for talks with Italian leaders and a visit with Pope John Paul II.

The unexpected announcement from the American and Russian leaders followed their second meeting in about a month. President Bush told reporters at a joint news conference that he is optimistic this new approach to arms negotiations can bring results. "We are going to have open and honest dialogue about defensive systems as well as reduction of offensive systems," he said. "The two go hand in hand in order to set up a new strategic framework for peace."

Mr. Bush said he is sending his national security advisor Condoleezza Rice to Moscow to set a timetable for new arms talks. He said there are still many questions to be answered, and a lot of work lies ahead. "Inevitably there will be questions because, after all, what we are talking about doing is changing a mindset of the world," said President Bush. "We are basically saying the Cold War is forever over. And the vestiges of the Cold War that locked us into a hostile situation are over."

In 1972, at the height of the cold war, the United States and the Soviet Union signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Russia has opposed U.S. plans to build a missile defense system on the grounds it would violate the ABM agreement.

President Putin has said in the past that a new arms race could develop if Mr. Bush goes ahead with his missle defense initiative. Now, the Russian leader is talking about finding common ground, with a focus on offensive arms. He spoke at the news conference. "We share the position of the U.S. president on the need to have large cuts in offensive arms," he said. "I have already spoken to this, and together we are going to move forward in this direction."

The session with reporters touched on other issues as well. Both men were asked about the legacy of the just ended summit of the world's leading industrialized nations and Russia. The meeting in Genoa will be remembered not for the images around the conference table, but the scenes in the streets of this Italian port city. There were days of angry protests. One demonstrator was killed, hundreds of people were injured.

Mr. Putin said despite the protests, these annual summits must continue. President Bush agreed, saying he is looking forward to next year's meeting of the Group of Eight at a mountain resort in Alberta, Canada.