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Russia: START Ratification Should Precede Next Summit

Moscow, 13 November 1997 (RFE/RL) - The new U.S. ambassador to Moscow, James Collins, says U.S. President Bill Clinton will probably visit Russia sometime early next year. Collins says the visit ideally should take place after Russia's ratification of the START II treaty.

In his first news conference in Moscow as U.S. ambassador, Collins said today the United States and Russia should continue working together to reduce their nuclear arms stockpiles and improve nuclear security.

Collins also defended NATO expansion and spoke of the need for Russia to reduce corruption and crime. And he said Washington is closely watching Russia's implementation of a new religion law.

Asked when Clinton would next visit Russia for a summit with President Boris Yeltsin, Collins said he would expect it to be sometime in the first half of next year.

Clinton and Yeltsin discussed the prospects for START II ratification in a telephone conversation last month. Communists and others in the Duma, the lower house of Russia's parliament, have balked at ratifying the arms pact aimed at cutting arms.

Collins also said the United States was not treating Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov as a head of state on his current U.S. visit, but as a regional leader of the Russian Federation.

Collins mentioned FBI director Louis Freeh is due to arrive in Moscow next Tuesday for talks with senior Russian officials on ways to fight international organized crime.