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#5 - JRL 7009
US envoy notes general Washington-Moscow convergence despite differences
January 8, 2002

US ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow has said he believes that relations with Russia are steadily improving despite some differences of opinion and emphasis in foreign policy, Russian news agency Interfax reported on 8 January.

"We have sometimes taken different tactical approaches to some international issues," he told the agency. "But, I think, we more and more recognize that our interests are converging and we are defending the same values on the international stage. And that for me provides a source for optimism that 2003 will be even better than 2002."

Vershbow echoed this attitude when discussing Iraq, Interfax reported: "Without necessarily agreeing 100 per cent, we have managed to find a common approach," the ambassador commented.

The ambassador also used the interview to give a cautious assessment of Russian ties with China. "While we are pleased to see normal constructive relations developing [between Russia and China], we do have some worries about the military aspect," Vershbow told Interfax. "Russia is exporting a lot of arms to China, which of course is legitimate. But we worry that some of the most advanced technologies could contribute to increasing tensions between China and Taiwan," he added.

Commenting to Interfax on National Missile Defence, Vershbow emphasized the common threat facing the two countries and stressed the possibilities for cooperation.

"The system that we are developing for early deployment is only in its initial phase, we haven't even decided what will be in the later phases of this programme, because technologies are still in a formative stage. So there are plenty of opportunities for joint development of the architecture of the future system," Vershbow told Interfax. He added that he also saw scope for cooperation in areas such as the development of early warning systems, missile interception and the missiles themselves.

Elsewhere in the interview, reports the agency, Vershbow denied that the USA had been holding talks with Russian oil giant LUKoil about guarantees for the company in a post-Saddam Iraq.

"We have contact with Russian oil companies, as well as with the Russian government, but we have not been engaging in any negotiations about specific arrangements for a post- Saddam Iraq. Our discussions have been more general," Vershbow told Interfax.

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