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Powell, Putin Discuss Nuclear Weapons Cuts - 2001-12-10

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell wrapped up a visit Monday to Russia, where he discussed U.S. plans to build a missile defense shield as well as new cuts in nuclear weapons.

After meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr. Powell said the United States and Russia were close to a new strategic arms agreement that would reduce each country's stockpile of nuclear weapons.

The secretary of state said both sides would like to have an agreement by the time Presidents Bush and Putin meet in Moscow next year.

During last month's summit in Crawford, Texas, President Bush said he wanted to reduce the U.S. strategic arsenal to 1,700-2,200 warheads. The Russian president said he, too, would like to cut Russia's nuclear arsenal, but did not give a specific figure.

The two sides also discussed U.S. plans to build a missile defense system, something Washington says it needs to protect itself from missile attacks by so-called rogue states, such as Iraq. But such a shield, Russia says, would require changes in the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, something Russia strongly opposes.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said there were no breakthroughs in his talks with Mr. Powell on this issue. Mr. Ivanov said Russia believes the 1972 ABM treaty is useful and needs to be saved.

Mr. Powell also discussed the situation in Afghanistan with the Russian leaders.

President Putin thanked the United States for helping Russia to get humanitarian aid to the country. Russia is delivering food and medical aid to Afghanistan through the Bagram airfield, which is controlled by U.S. troops.

This was Mr. Powell's first visit to Russia as secretary of state. He is on an eight day trip through Central Asia and Europe to maintain support for the U.S.-led war against terrorism in Afghanistan.

After Moscow, he travels to Berlin, Paris and London before returning to Washington.