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Bush Aide Cites Missile Defense Progress - 2001-07-29

President Bush's National Security Advisor says there has been progress with Russia in efforts to bridge the gap on the controversial issue of missile defense. Condoleezza Rice says the United States is trying to convince Moscow to move beyond the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which restricts development of defensive systems.

Condoleezza Rice is the top aide sent by President Bush to Moscow to pave the way for new arms discussions.

During a nationally broadcast interview, Ms. Rice said there has been progress. She said missile defense is being considered, along with cuts in offensive arms, as part of a broader security framework. "We are going to begin now on a very intensive set of discussions with the Russians about how to get this done," she said.

Ms. Rice stressed a primary objective is to come to a meeting of the minds on the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, signed by the United States and the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. Russia says abrogating the treaty would lead to a new arms race. The Bush White House says the agreement is out of date, and does not reflect a world where Russia and America can - and do - work together.

"We have made the case to the Russians that it is time to move beyond that treaty to something that is more appropriate to the post Cold War era," she stressed.

The White House National Security Advisor told the CBS-TV program "Face the Nation" that there has been far less progress in dealing with China on the missile defense controversy.

Ms. Rice said the dispute in April over a U.S. spy plane set back discussions with Beijing. She said America must step up its consultations with China at high levels, and is beginning to do that now.