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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ivanov to Meet Powell in Cairo

WASHINGTON - Russia and the United States said Tuesday they would soon hold their first high-level meeting since President George W. Bush took office, with global security, nuclear threats and plans for a U.S. missile shield topping the agenda.

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov announced he would meet new U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in Cairo Feb. 24 on the first day of Powell's trip to the Middle East and Belgium.

Ivanov said Russia would continue to take a "constructive approach" on talks on START arms control agreements and the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty (ABM), seen as among the most contentious issues between Moscow and Washington.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told a news briefing in Washington: "I'm sure they will want to discuss all those areas that relate to safety for both our governments, for both our countries, for both our peoples."

He said they would also discuss events in the Middle East, where both countries have played a mediating role.

Boucher brushed off talk Bush would give Russia less prominence than his predecessor.

"The secretary has already spoken twice with Foreign Minister Ivanov. The president has spoken with President (Vladimir) Putin already. This is obviously an important relationship to us and one that we will take seriously and work on seriously."

Republicans accused former President Bill Clinton's "troika" of Russia advisors of taking a romanticized approach to dealing with Moscow and of ignoring warnings of corruption there while approving huge loans to the former superpower.

At the same time, Clinton's team tried to persuade Moscow to amend the ABM, which barred either side from using missiles to shield their territory from missile attack, except to protect their capitals and one other site.

Now the Bush administration, facing what it says are new threats in North Korea, Iran and Iraq, says it will walk away from ABM if necessary, which is seen by other countries as a cornerstone of strategic arms control.

RICE QUOTES RAISE QUESTIONS IN MOSCOW

Echoing similar comments he made Monday, Ivanov repeated a pledge to be "constructive" after talks between German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Monday he said Russia was committed to a constructive approach to arms talks, including the U.S. plans for NMD.

"We welcome the statement from Foreign Minister Ivanov yesterday that Russia intends to be constructive in dealing with security questions, including National Missile Defense (NMD)," Boucher said, using the official name for the shield.

"But we'll have to see when we have a chance to talk to him more about the details," he added.

The missile shield is in the early stages of development and would cost tens of billions of dollars. It would most likely be land- or sea-based, unlike the space-age "Star Wars" plan favored by former President Ronald Reagan.

Russia, which has thousands of nuclear weapons, and China, which has far fewer, fiercely oppose NMD, arguing it would neutralize their defenses.

Other critics including U.S. Democrats and European leaders fear it would prompt other countries to amass more weapons of mass destruction instead of making the world safer.

Earlier this month Ivanov reiterated Russia's calls to negotiate with the United States on a START III treaty which would offer deep new cuts in both sides' nuclear arsenals.

Ivanov has also said he hopes to use talks with Powell to allay concerns over Moscow's foreign policy following remarks by White House National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Translated from the French in Le Figaro magazine, Rice's quotes read, "I sincerely believe that Russia is a threat to the West in general and to our European allies in particular.

"Neither they nor we are vigilant enough in the face of risks presented by the nuclear arsenal and the Kremlin's ballistic means," she said in remarks carried at the weekend.

"So we have every reason to fear possible transfers of nuclear technology from Russia."

National Security Council spokesman Mary Ellen Countryman said Rice's comment had been taken out of context, saying she was expressing concern about possible nuclear proliferation from the former Soviet Union but not about the Russian government.

"What becomes clear as you read the remainder of that paragraph and the interview was that Dr. Rice was expressing concern about nuclear proliferation which might emanate from the former Soviet Union," Countryman said.

"It's very clear that she's not calling Russia a threat to the West," Countryman added. "As Dr. Rice and other senior administration officials have stated, we hope and expect to have a strong and productive relationship with Russia."