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Russia Official Blasts Missile Cuts
November 14, 2001

MOSCOW (AP) - A top Russian military official objected Wednesday to President Bush's proposal for unilateral missile cuts, questioning whether such reductions could be verified.

Vice Admiral Valentin Kuznetsov of the Russian Defense Ministry said ``we are heading in the right direction in the elimination of huge missile arsenals.'' However, he said, ``what will guarantee the meeting of the reduction and verification'' of the promised cuts? Kuznetsov asked in a speech at the General Staff Military Academy.

His statement came after Bush, meeting Tuesday with President Vladimir Putin in Washington, proposed a ceiling of 1,700-2,200 nuclear warheads for the United States. Bush wants to make the cuts under an informal agreement. Putin said Russia's position on the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty ``remains unchanged.''

Kuznetsov said the United States and Russia have ``worked out a thorough mechanism in the sphere of control and verification relating to the destruction of strategic defensive weapons. Discarding it now would be wrong.''

Putin last year proposed cutting each country's strategic nuclear arms to 1,500 warheads. But he said he wants cuts made under a formal agreement.

The Russian position reflects Moscow's uneasiness over the Bush administration's insistence on acting unilaterally in the arms sphere, even as the two countries have begun to cooperate more closely in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Russia remains concerned about long-term U.S. intentions, particularly Bush's push to build a national missile defense system that would contravene the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Moscow argues that abandoning the pact would knock out the keystone of arms control and other security agreements.

Also Wednesday, Russia's Atomic Ministry said it drafted a program for cooperation with U.S. nuclear laboratories in order to enhance security of its nuclear facilities.

If and when approved, the program would help upgrade management of files on nuclear materials and better protect radioactive substances from theft, the ministry said in a statement.

The United States has said that security of Russian nuclear facilities is not tight and has raised concerns that terrorists could try to acquire radioactive substances from Russian sources.

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