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U.S. Says It's Satisfied

The United States has "everything we want at this stage" from NATO allies on a contentious missile defense program, Secretary of State Colin Powell's spokesman asserted Wednesday.

"We didn't come out here with a plan, we didn't come out here for approval of a plan," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

NATO allies declined the day before to rally behind President Bush's plan for a national missile defense system, despite a push by Powell and other administration officials to win support for strong language acknowledging a "common threat" from missile attack from terrorists or hostile nations.

Powell attended final NATO sessions on Wednesday before heading home to Washington.

The secretary of state discussed missile defense plans briefly in a 30-minute meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Boucher said. But the conversation was in terms of Mr. Bush's meeting in June with Russian President Vladimir Putin.


Reuters
Powell talking with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana

"The whole idea of missile defense will be discussed by the presidents," Boucher said.

"He didn't come with any new proposals," Boucher said, referring to reports that the Bush administration is prepared to offer Moscow a series of incentives in an attempt to win its support for the U.S. missile defense plan.

These include the U.S. purchase of Russia's S-300 surface-to-air missiles and co-operation in upgrading Russia's early warning systems.

Ivanov and Powell also talked about the Middle East, Afghanistan, and efforts by the United States and Britain to win Russian support for a series of sanctions on Iraq.

The current phase of the U.N. humanitarian "oil-for-food" program expires Sunday. So far, Russia has opposed proposed revisions in the sanctions program sought by the United States and Britain.

No agreement was reached in Budapest, but Boucher said Powell was hopeful negotiators at the United Nations in New York could reach an agreement before the deadline.

Powell also talked by phone to the new U.S. envoy to the Middle East, William Burns, Boucher said, to discuss peace talks. A U.S.-mediated meeting of Israeli and Palestinian security chiefs ended Wednesday without result as violence in the region persisted.

The Bush administration failed to win NATO's support the day before for stronger language in a statement pledging to continue talks with Washington over Mr. Bush's plan for a shield against missile attack.

NATO ministers did bow to a request by the administration in deleting from a joint statement an reference to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which prevents development of national missile defense systems.

Although many NATO allies, led by Germany and France, continued to voice deep skepticism about the missile plan, U.S. officials sought to put the best face on the setback.

"In general, we have everything we want to at this stage," Boucher said.

He said that, while some allies have expressed reservations about a missile defense, contending it will lead to a resumption of an arms race, "nobody has specifically rejected it."

"No one is saying there are no dangers," Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi said Wednesday in response to the Bush administration's missile defense plans. "We need to see if the international instruments in place are adequate."

Boucher said allies universally appreciated the promise that the administration will consult with them on the plan before deploying it.

By Tom Raum
©MMI The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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