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Bush Reassures Putin on Nuclear Arsenal Reduction - 2001-12-19

President Bush telephoned Russian President Vladmir Putin Wednesday to reaffirm his commitment to reducing the countries' nuclear arsenals. Mr. Bush announced earlier this month that the United States is pulling out of the 1972 Anti-ballistic missile treaty with Russia.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says President Bush called the Russian leader to extend best wishes for the holidays and encourage what he called the "positive course of U.S. Russian relations."

"The two leaders affirmed their agreement to move forward to codify a new strategic framework between the United States and Russia including lowered numbers of nuclear weapons and greater transparency and mutual cooperation on defenses if possible," Mr. Fleischer said.

Mr. Bush has given six months notice that the United States will withdraw from the treaty because it does not allow for the development of a new missile defense system.

A Kremlin statement said President Putin repeated his opinion that the U.S. withdrawal is a "mistake." It said the two leaders agreed to proceed "energetically" on cutting their strategic arsenals. Both men have promised to cut nuclear warheads to a level around 2,000.