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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bush Changes Mind, Backs A Formal Arms Agreement

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President George W. Bush has expressed optimism that a deal on nuclear arms reduction would be ready for his summit meeting with President Vladimir Putin in May, and clearly moved from reluctance to enthusiasm about signing a formal agreement with his Russian counterpart.

At a White House news conference on Wednesday, Bush also defended a Pentagon review of the nation's nuclear posture that included consideration of how these weapons might be used to destroy biological or chemical arms, even if the adversary is not nuclear power.

"We've got all options on the table, because we want to make it very clear to nations that you will not threaten the United States or use weapons of mass destruction against us or our allies or friends," the president said.

He expanded on comments earlier in the day by Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who said "some specific results have been achieved" in two days of talks on nuclear arms reductions with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"I share the minister's optimism that we can get something done by May," Bush said. "I'd like to sign a document in Russia when I'm there."

Although the president has said repeatedly that he is open to how a deal could be sealed with Russia, he has called a formal agreement unnecessary.

On Wednesday, however, he seemed to wholeheartedly embrace the Russian view. Bush said he agrees, "with President Putin that there needs to be a document that outlives both of us. And what form that comes in we will discuss."

American officials have said that even after the United States cuts its nuclear arsenal it might store hundreds of warheads to respond to future threats.

Asked to describe the Russian reaction, Ivanov seemed to indicate that Russia might also store some warheads.

"It is true that for some period of time, those warheads could be stored or shelved, but anyway, the time will inevitably come when those will have to be destroyed," Ivanov said.