Bush, Putin to Make Arms-Control Pact Legally Binding; Powell Says Treaty, Executive Agreement Are Options

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Byline: Nicholas Kralev, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Bush administration, abandoning its reluctance to lock the United States into a new strategic arms-control agreement with Russia, yesterday said it would sign a legally binding document as early as May.

Although both Washington and Moscow committed to reducing their nuclear arsenals by two-thirds in November, the United States had been resisting Russia's call for a formal accord, arguing that it wanted to avoid treaties reminiscent of the Cold War.

But yesterday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Washington was "hard at work on an agreement to record these commitments."

"We do expect that, as we codify this framework, it will be something that will be legally binding and we are examining different ways in which this can happen," Mr. Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "It can be an executive agreement on which both houses of Congress might like to speak or it might be a treaty."

Both U.S. and Russian officials said they expect the agreement to be signed by President Bush and Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, during their summit in Moscow in late May.

When the two presidents met in Washington and Crawford, Texas, three months ago, Mr. Bush pledged to slash the U.S. arsenal to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads from the current level of about 7,000 over 10 years. Mr. Putin responded by announcing cuts to between 1,500 and 2,000 warheads from about 6,000.

Mr. Bush suggested that a handshake would be enough to accept the mutual pledges, saying, "We don't need an arms-control agreement. …