Ivanov Pushes Alternative to Scrapping ABM Treaty

UNITED NATIONS -- Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov dashed U.S. hopes again Tuesday of amending the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and instead promoted a global program on curbing missile technology.

In a speech to a review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Ivanov opposed any changes to the ABM Treaty Washington might propose so it can develop a missile-defense system to protect the United States against a rocket from a "rogue" state.

"One has to be fully aware of the fact that the prevailing system of arms-control agreements is a complex and quite fragile structure," Ivanov said. "Once one of its key elements has been weakened, the entire system is destabilized.

"The collapse of the ABM Treaty would, therefore, undermine the entirety of disarmament agreements concluded over the last 30 years," he said.

"The threat of the erosion of the nonproliferation regimes related to nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction and their delivery means would, therefore, grow," he said.

Ivanov spoke a day after U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright defended the new National Missile Defense policy, dubbed "star wars" and criticized by nearly every non-nuclear state as a threat to the ABM Treaty. U.S. President Bill Clinton is expected to decide this summer whether to go ahead and build the anti-missile shield.

Ivanov said Russia was prepared "to engage in the broadest consultation" with the United States.

Specifically, he referred to a Russian plan to limit "rogue" states' access to missile technology called the Global Missile and Missile Technologies Non-Proliferation Control System.

"A phased approach to the development of this system on a broad voluntary basis, I am convinced, will be a step in the right direction," he said.

Ivanov also provided a new progress report on Russia's destruction of thousands of so-called non-strategic tactical nuclear weapons that are not included in the START treaty.

Ivanov said one-third of the nuclear munitions for sea-based tactical systems and naval aircraft had been eliminated.

But disarmament experts say Ivanov's speech showed the same reluctance as Albright's presentation Monday to meet demands by many countries that progress on eliminating nuclear weapons was far too slow and that both countries needed to commit themselves to an accelerated pace of disarmament.

"Most of the world wants to work with the U.S. and Russia to eliminate the nuclear threat once and for all," said Dan Plesch, director of the British-American Security Information Council, an arms-control pressure group. "Instead we seem locked in an old-fashioned Cold War agenda of point scoring and mutual recriminations," he said.