Progress in US-Russia talks on missile policy


US President Mr George W Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin said today they have made progress in talks on the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

The talks came after the US won backing from Pacific Rim leaders for his war against terrorism at the end of the summit of the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum.

A declaration at the end of the APEC summit stopped short of endorsing military action in Afghanistan today, or naming Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect behind the attacks on New York and Washington.

But it said leaders "unequivocally condemn in the strongest terms" the September 11th hijack attacks.

Chinese President, Mr Jiang Zemin condemned the terrorist attacks as "an affront to peace, prosperity and the security of all people".

In a meeting after the APEC summit, Mr Bush and Mr Putin discussed on the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and reported some progress.

Washington wants to scrap so the ABM Treaty so it can build a missile shield against rogue rockets.

The leaders discussed significant cuts in nuclear weapons, without getting down to specifics.

In addition, they agreed to co-operate more closely to stop weapons of mass destruction - including biological weapons - being used for terrorism.

Mr Bush emerged from the meeting filled with praise for the Russian president, who he said had been the first to call after the attacks.

"That's what a friend does - he calls in time of need. And he called," he said at a joint news conference, adding a decision by Mr Putin to halt Russian military exercises under way at the time highlighted the transformation in relations between the former foes.

Mr Putin described US action in Afghanistan as "measured and adequate", welcome words for Mr Bush as the conference had heard misgivings from predominantly Muslim Indonesia and Malaysia over mounting civilian casualties.