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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Seeks To Speed Up Talks On Arms

ROME — U.S. President George W. Bush said Monday he is looking to reach quick agreement with Russia on a framework for new arms control talks, but will allow President Vladimir Putin and European allies time to get used to the idea of scrapping a nearly 30-year-old arms treaty.

His comments came a day after Bush and Putin announced a surprise agreement for new arms control talks that would link discussion of missile defenses to talks on shrinking nuclear stockpiles.

"I've told President Putin that time matters, that I want to reach an accord sooner rather than later," Bush told reporters during a news conference with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Putin told top Cabinet officials Monday that he and Bush made significant progress toward new arms talks. But he also assured that they both "confirmed our adherence" to a long-standing arms control treaty, according to the Kremlin press service.

"Of course there was no principal breakthrough. We confirmed our adherence to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty," Putin said at the meeting, according to the Kremlin press service.

"At the same time, there is significant forward movement," Putin said.

Bush and Putin still must bridge decades of mistrust over nuclear negotiations, and questions lingered about how their talks would take shape.

Bush promised he would keep his word to consult with allies as he proceeds with building a missile defense, but stressed that he is determined to go forward even if that means flouting the ABM Treaty.

That pact, struck with the former Soviet Union during the Cold War, seeks to contain the nuclear threat by leaving both the United States and Russia vulnerable to missile attack.

Russia is concerned that abandoning the ABM Treaty would touch off another arms race. Putin suggested that Moscow might increase its number of multiple-warhead missiles if there is no new accord to replace it.

"Make no mistake about it, I think it's important to move beyond the ABM treaty," Bush said. "We'll move beyond if need be."

First, though, Bush said he wants to give Putin and European allies "ample time to … understand what I'm trying to say." While Putin readily accepted the notion of reaching a new security framework, European allies "need some time to fully understand the full implications."

Separately, both Bush and Putin have urged further cuts in their nations' huge nuclear arsenals. Sunday was the first time they agreed to tandem talks on offensive and defensive weapons.

"The two go hand-in-hand in order to set up a new strategic framework for peace," an upbeat Bush said at their joint news conference in Genoa on Sunday.

Putin was more reserved. "We're not ready at this time to talk about threshold limits or the numbers themselves. But a joint striving exists," he said.

On Monday, Putin told the Cabinet that considering those issues as a package "seems right to us."

Noting that U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was arriving in Moscow this week to kick off discussions on the package, Putin said Russian negotiators should develop the "politically positive" atmosphere he and Bush had achieved at the weekend summit.

The coming negotiations "should play their own positive role in resolving these difficult issues," he said.

Most Russian newspapers on Monday concentrated more attention on the anti-globalism demonstrations in Genoa than on the Russian-U.S. talks.

But the Boris Berezovsky-controlled Kommersant newspaper pronounced in a front-page story that Putin had caved in to Bush's intention to go ahead with the U.S. missile defense plans, regardless of what Moscow thinks.

"Russia gave up. The 1972 treaty has ceased to exist," the newspaper said.

Vladimir Lukin, a former Russian ambassador to the United States who is now a lawmaker with the Yabloko faction, said that the Putin-Bush meeting was important because it had set the stage for serious negotiations.

"They settled one very important thing: One side is prepared to speak of limiting the number of offensive weapons, the other side is prepared to look at [missile defense] questions more flexibly and creatively," he told Ekho Moskvy radio.