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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kiev Reassures U. S. Over Disarmament

Ukraine's president on Monday attempted to dispel American concern that Kiev will roll back on pledges to give up its nuclear arsenal, telling U. S. Defense Secretary Les Aspin that the former Soviet republic will soon ratify two critical weapons treaties.

"I want to pledge to you that our policy is not changing", Leonid Kravchuk said of Ukrainian pledges to ratify the START I nuclear arms reduction treaty and the 1968 nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

"I should think this question will be solved before the end of the session - before the parliamentary recess", he told Aspin before the start of talks.

Aspin arrived Sunday evening for two days of talks on the question of Ukraine's nuclear disarmament, which has caused increasing friction between Kiev and Moscow. The prospect of a serious confrontation between the two nuclear powers has caused growing alarm in Washington.

The Ukrainian parliament has been deeply divided over the ratification issue and Prime Minister Leonid Kuchma set alarm bells ringing in Washington and Moscow last week when he recommended that Ukraine declare itself a "temporary" nuclear power.

Parliament debated ratification of START I for two days before Aspin arrived in Kiev on Sunday. Most speakers supported Kuchma's idea of "temporary" nuclear status.

Aspin's opposite, Ukrainian Defense Minister Kostyantin Morozov, assured him in a toast that "implementation of obligations undertaken by Ukraine is just a matter of time".

But he added that in exchange for giving up its nuclear deterrent, Ukraine "can rightly expect security guarantees from the United States and other powers", something that could take years to obtain.

Ukraine has pledged itself to give up the 1, 600 former Soviet nuclear warheads on its territory and its 176 strategic missiles. But a final commitment will be made only when the parliament in Kiev has ratified the two treaties.

A recently leaked U. S. intelligence report indicated that both Moscow and Washington will insist on rapid ratification and disarmament. The report said Kiev may be able to develop within a year electronic codes to give them active control over missiles on their territory.

Aspin arrived in Kiev from Germany, where he had held difficult talks with Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev. Grachev rejected proposals that the United States should act as mediator between Ukraine and Russia in their debate over how and when Kiev will give up its weapons, insisting that Washington should take Russia's side in a joint effort to make Ukraine disarm.

"We can rule out mediation by the United States in relations between Russia and Ukraine", Grachev told reporters after the talks. He also said he had told Aspin to "convey to the Ukrainians that Russia is in no way an adversary of Ukraine".

That reassurance is unlikely to be heeded, however, as Ukraine is embroiled in a series of difficult negotiations with Moscow over how to divide the property of the former Soviet Union.

Information from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this article.