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US May Be Within Months of ABM Breach - 2001-07-31

The Bush administration may be within months of breaching the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. So says a Pentagon group reviewing the administration's missile defense plans.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral Craig Quigley says the compliance group's findings are very tentative and subject to further government review.

But Admiral Quigley tells reporters the findings presented Monday to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz do indicate potential conflicts with the ABM treaty. "They found some instances where there is at least a question in the review group's mind as to whether or not the proposed activity would remain in compliance with the treaty, he said."

The spokesman declines to discuss specifics about which proposed missile defense activities, including tests, could run afoul of the ABM pact. But he says the tentative findings could conceivably lead to alterations in test activities.

The Bush administration has said it wants to develop effective missile defenses to protect the United States from possible attack by rogue states, such as Iraq or North Korea.

But the ABM Treaty, signed with the former Soviet Union, restricts missile defense activities. The Bush administration has said it will withdraw from the agreement if it cannot negotiate a new arrangement with Russia that would permit further missile defense development.

The Pentagon is planning an ambitious test schedule for the missile defense program in the months ahead. Officials also intend to begin construction shortly on new test facilities in Alaska for one of the antimissile systems under study - one in which ground-based interceptors are launched to destroy incoming long-range missiles.