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Powell marks new alliance with Russia on terrorism
By Elaine Monaghan

MOSCOW, Dec 9 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell swapped Soviet suspicion and nuclear angst for arms cuts and a shoulder-to-shoulder war against terrorism on Sunday on his first trip to Russia since taking charge of foreign policy.

In 1973 he got his first taste of Russia as a White House fellow, tailed by communist spies and dragged away if he tried to break free. Soviet ground was "hard with suspicion and mistrust," he wrote in his autobiography.

In 2001 police closed roads so he could speed into a snow-clad central Moscow, whisking him off to the Kremlin for a tour and leisurely dinner with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, or Igor, as Powell calls him affectionately after 15 meetings.

Powell had just laid flowers at a memorial to 13 people killed and 47 hurt by a bomb that ripped through a pedestrian passageway in the heart of downtown Moscow last year.

If U.S.-Russian relations were in second gear before hijacked planes slammed into the World Trade Center's twin towers, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania countryside on September 11, they have since blasted into overdrive.

The attacks brought home to Washington the threat President Vladimir Putin has blamed on Chechen militants, who he says have links with Osama bin Laden, the man Washington says killed nearly 4,000 people in the September attacks.

Russia's death tolls have been lower -- 118 people killed in an eight-storey Moscow apartment block, 94 in another apartment block blast, 64 people -- mostly wives and children of Russian officers -- at a military housing block near Chechnya, more than 50 dead in a bomb blast in a market in Vladikavkaz.

Human rights groups say thousands of Chechen civilians have been killed since the second Russian campaign to crush the rebels began and helped propel Putin to power.


September 11 prompted Putin, whose KGB past made Washington suspicious, to race to call President George W. Bush, an initiative that spelled the start of a more understanding brand of rhetoric out of Washington about Moscow's Chechen campaign.

"He was the first world leader to call Mr Bush and that meant a lot to the American people," Powell told independent television station TV6 after he arrived in Moscow.

"Russia has suffered from terrorist acts and understands that this is a campaign that the whole of Russia should be aligned to," he added of the U.S. war in Afghanistan that Russia has supported vigorously.

"There are terrorists in Chechnya and we understand that, but they have to use restraint, to try to find a political solution and be very, very considerate of human rights."

September 11 also appears to have give an impetus to talks aimed at resolving differences over U.S. plans to build a missile defence system that was banned in the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty signed the year before Powell's first visit.

Powell may hear a final figure from Putin when he meets him on Monday on how much he is prepared to cut his nuclear arsenal as part of ongoing arms reductions that are running in tandem with efforts to agree a graceful exit from the ABM.

The two countries announced on Wednesday that they had slashed their stockpile to levels set by the START-1 treaty, signed by Washington and Moscow in 1991, to 5,518, well below the ceiling of 6,000 established by the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty.

Putin and Bush announced substantial cuts in nuclear arms stockpiles during Putin's visit to the United States last month, bringing them to the lowest level since the 1950s.

At the summit, Bush announced plans to cut U.S. strategic offensive weapons from 7,000 warheads to between 1,700 and 2,200. Russia has said it is ready to cut the number of its strategic warheads to about 1,500.

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