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Bush Meets with Russian Defense Minister


President Bush met at the White House Tuesday with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. Mr. Bush's upcoming visit to Moscow and St. Petersburg topped the agenda.

Mr. Ivanov came to Washington to help set the stage for the late May summit between President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The two sides had hoped to complete a new arms control agreement in time for the visit. But negotiations have bogged down. The problem is not whether they should reduce their stockpiles of strategic nuclear weapons but how.

The United States wants to take some of its warheads out of service and put them in storage in case they are needed to respond to a future emergency. The Russians want them destroyed.

When he emerged from the White House, Defense Minister Ivanov said only that he discussed the issue with President Bush. He said the meeting covered several topics, including American plans to help train forces in Georgia to combat terrorism.

Speaking through an interpreter, Mr. Ivanov indicated that Russian concerns about U.S. troops in Georgia had been addressed. "We still see that terrorists and criminals are present in the territory of that country," he said. "And as I understood the president, he has assured me all those Georgian problems could not be resolved unless the Russian interests are taken into account."

The Russian Defense Minister was also asked about a classified Pentagon review of U.S. nuclear policy, which reportedly lists new threats and targets. Mr. Ivanov said the issue did not come up at the White House, but added he had addressed it earlier with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

He said he would have more to say about the matter when he holds a joint press conference with Secretary Rumsfeld on Wednesday.

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