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Russia Satisfied With US Nuke Reasons

March 15, 2002

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MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia is satisfied with U.S. explanations about a contingency plan that could allow nuclear strikes against Russia and six other nations, Russia’s defense minister said Friday after talks in Washington.

Officials from Iran and North Korea _ also on the list of potential targets _ hit back angrily.

U.S. officials provided Russia with explanations ``that satisfy us,″ Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told reporters in Shannon, Ireland, on his way back from the United States, according to the ITAR-Tass and Interfax news agencies.

The leak of a classified Pentagon nuclear planning document had threatened to overshadow Ivanov’s visit. Last weekend’s news reports about the Nuclear Posture Review listed as potential targets Russia and China, both nuclear powers, as well as Iran, Syria, Iraq, North Korea and Libya.

Russian officials, whose country has enjoyed warmer relations with Washington in recent months because of Moscow’s support for the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan, have questioned why the plan lumps Russia together with some of Washington’s fiercest foes, such as Iraq and North Korea.

But in his talks with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, Ivanov steered clear of any public signs of irritation.

``Being a defense minister, I understand well that the defense ministry of any country must plan any kind of developments,″ Ivanov said Friday.

Ivanov’s talks with U.S. officials focused on working out a deal on nuclear arms cuts that both sides hope to secure in time for President Bush’s visit to Russia in May.

``There remain differences in approach to the text of the future agreement,″ Ivanov said. ``But I wouldn’t say that it’s an impasse.″

He said the main sticking point is Russian concern over U.S. plans to store decommissioned weapons instead of destroying them.

Bush agreed last December to reduce U.S. arsenals of long-range nuclear warheads by two-thirds to 1,700 to 2,200. Putin said Russia could go as low as 1,500.

In Greece, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said on Friday that the U.S. planning document was a threat to ``all humanity.″

After a meeting with Greek Orthodox Church Archbishop Christodoulos, Khatami said:

``The powers that threaten other peoples with nuclear weapons threaten not just these peoples but all humanity.″

For a third straight day, North Korea’s Stalinist regime accused the U.S. government of planning a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula, and claimed that it has the ability to retaliate.

``If the U.S. inflicts a nuclear holocaust upon the DPRK, the former’s mainland will not be safe either,″ said Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party.

Update hourly