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Russia: German Defense Minister Opens Talks On NATO

Moscow, 30 January 2001 (RFE/RL) -- German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping has begun a day of talks in Moscow expected to focus on Russia's relations with NATO and U.S. proposals to develop an anti-missile defense shield. Scharping opened the day with talks with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. The German minister, like many of his European counterparts, has voiced concerns about Washington's missile proposal and amendments to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) that it would require.

Moscow sees the ABM pact as the cornerstone of decades of disarmament work and is firmly opposed to the U.S. plan. General Valery Manilov, Russia's first deputy chief-of-staff, reiterated that opposition today in comments to ITAR-TASS. He said any modernization of current defense systems must be undertaken slowly and by mutual agreement.

Scharping is also scheduled to meet with Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev for talks likely to be dominated by Western Europe's defense strategy and common reservations over a proposed U.S. missile defense program. Scharping told a German newspaper last week that he viewed as unrealistic the U.S. National Missile Defense plan, which is favored by President George W. Bush and his secretary of defense, Colin Powell.

Scharping's meetings in Moscow come less than two weeks after a similar visit by France's defense minister, Alain Richard, who voiced Paris's unease with proposals to build a U.S. anti-missile shield and the amendments to the ABM treaty that it would entail.