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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U. S. 'Encouraged' At START Talks

GENEVA - Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger of the United States and Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev of Russia made progress Monday in their last-gasp effort to seal a historic nuclear arms treaty before President George Bush leaves office.

"We are encouraged by the way things are going. We think we are making progress", said a U. S. spokesman, Richard Boucher.

The ministers held a two-hour morning session and had lunch together before handing the negotiations over to experts. They agreed to continue talks over dinner and to meet again on Tuesday, Boucher said.

When the talks began, Kozyrev sounded optimistic about the prospects of completing the treaty, known as START II.

"I am ready to bet a bottle of whisky and say that we will do such work here which will make it possible for our presidents to have a positive decision after our negotiations today", he said.

The ministers are making a final effort to complete the treaty before the Bush administration leaves office on Jan. 20. It would slash both countrie's arsenals of long-range nuclear weapons by about two-thirds.

Flying to Geneva from Washington, Eagleburger said he thought there was a "better than 50-50 chance" of completing the treaty which would give Bush a triumphant exit from office.

The first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, finalized last year, cut the nuclear arsenals of the United States and former Soviet Union by about 30 percent.

START II goes much further. It would completely abolish the most deadly and destabilizing class of nuclear weapons - land-based missiles equipped with multiple warheads.

If the talks succeed. Bush and President Boris Yeltsin are expected to meet next week in the Black Sea resort of Sochi to sign the treaty.

Eagleburger said the United States had made some important concessions in seeking to conclude the deal and Moscow was also showing flexibility. Three major issues remain to be resolved:

o How many silos that currently house the 154 giant SS18 missile would the Russians have to destroy and how many would they be allowed to keep?

Under the treaty, Russia has to dispose of all its SS18s but it has argued it cannot afford to destroy the silos as well and wants to keep them to store its currently mobile SS25 missiles. This could make them less vulnerable to a U. S. strike.

The United States had previously insisted on total destruction but Eagleburger said it was now prepared to allow the Russians to keep some silos. He did not say how many.

o How many of its 170 mobile SS19 missiles would Russia be allowed to convert or "download" from six warheads to one so as to be legal under the treaty?

Eagleburger indicated that Washington was no longer insisting on the total destruction of SS19s - its previous position. Russia could keep an unspecified number.

o The fate of U. S. Bl and B52 bombers. The B1s will be stripped of nuclear weapons but Washington wants the option to rearm them as it retires its B52s. Russia says that all B1s should be counted under treaty limits if Washington wants to preserve that right.

Eagleburger said Monday's talks were probably the last realistic chance of concluding the deal during the Bush administration. He said the presence of Defense Minister Pavel Grachev in the Russian delegation showed Moscow viewed the meeting in the same way.