Missile Spotters Strike a Deal; US and Russia Scrap Plutonium Arms

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President Bill Clinton and his Russian counterpart, Mr Vladimir Putin, yesterday conceded they still had differences on missile defence but pledged to work to bridge them.

After two days of talks, the two leaders signed agreements committing each nation to dispose of 34 tons of weapons-grade plutonium, and to provide each other with early warning of missile and space launches.

President Clinton and President Putin issued a joint "statement of principles" on missile defence that Mr Clinton described as "an attempt to bring our positions closer together".

Both described their first meeting since President Putin was sworn in last month as a search for common ground. President Clinton said that, while they couldn't agree on everything, they at least spelled out their differences with "clarity and candour. And I appreciate that".

President Putin praised his counterpart's negotiating style of "not trying to find dead ends and problems".

President Clinton said the joint statement "makes clear that there is an emerging ballistic missile threat which must be addressed, but we have not agreed on how to do so".

"We have acknowledged that the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty foresees the possibility of changes in the strategic environment that might require it to be updated," said President Clinton.

The joint statement itself, said both leaders, would "consider possible proposals for further increasing the viability of the treaty".

Deputy US Secretary of State Mr Strobe Talbott, who is also President Clinton's special envoy to Russia, said that President Putin made it clear his country had not backed away from its opposition to amending the treaty to allow deployment of a missile defence system. …