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U.S.: Russia's Ivanov In Washington To Discuss Terrorist Attacks

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is in Washington today for talks with U.S. President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell. The main topic is expected to be joint U.S.-Russian measures in the fight against international terrorism. Ivanov says Russia has prepared "concrete proposals on setting up a global system to fight new threats."

Moscow, 19 September 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, speaking yesterday at New York's John F. Kennedy airport, expressed his condolences to the families of the victims of last week's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Referring to Russia's still-unsolved string of apartment bombings in 1999, which left more than 300 people dead, Ivanov said Russia empathizes with those suffering in the wake of the U.S. attacks:

"American grief and indignation have touched the hearts of the Russian citizens, who have [already] experienced the horror of terrorist attacks."

Ivanov then moved on to Washington, where he is scheduled to meet today with President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell. Security measures, including Russian cooperation in any U.S.-led efforts in the war against terrorism, are expected to be high on the agenda.

Ivanov cautioned that U.S. officials should operate within the framework of the United Nations in any anti-terrorist actions. Russian officials in recent days have urged the U.S. to observe international laws and prevent unnecessary civilian suffering in any U.S.-led military action.

Despite early pledges of solidarity and support, Russia has since appeared reluctant to offer concrete aid to the U.S. in its anticipated intervention in Afghanistan, where the ruling Taliban militia is harboring Saudi-born extremist Osama bin Laden, named the primary suspect in the attacks.

Ivanov said retaliatory measures will not be among the topics discussed today:

"[We are not going to discuss] retaliation measures, but we are going to discuss what measures need to be taken to prevent a recurrence of such tragedies in the future."

Much attention in recent days has been paid to the potential role of Central Asia in any potential assault against Afghanistan. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov had earlier indicated that former Soviet republics in the regions would not offer airspace or military bases for a U.S. military action.

Two of Russia's top security and military officials are in the region today for talks on the issue. Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo is in Uzbekistan on the second stop of a tour to meet the region's defense chiefs. Russian Chief of General Staff Anatoli Kvashnin met with Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov in the capital, Dushanbe.

Foreign Minister Ivanov said CIS countries are free to decide whether to offer their military bases to the U.S.:

"Every country will decide for itself on how it will cooperate with the United States on this matter."

Ivanov also said Russia is prepared to offer what he called "concrete proposals" on fighting terrorism. He said future efforts should reach beyond simple military actions:

"We should think about what type of measures to develop along different lines -- legal measures, political measures, financial measures, and others -- in order to put up a reliable barrier against world terror."

Pavel Felgenhauer is a Moscow-based defense analyst. He says that any Russian proposal on fighting terrorism is unlikely to be accepted by the United States.

"[The proposal Ivanov is talking about] should be something like a United Nations approach to fighting terrorism, and creating some kind of system in which Russia will have details on any kind of action the United States may commence. That's the sort of main idea behind his proposal. But, of course, [that is] unacceptable to the United States."

In Moscow, Russia's State Duma opened its autumn session today with a minute of silence to honor the victims of last week's attacks -- and a debate behind closed doors on a draft resolution on the fight against international terrorism.

Dmitri Rogozin, who chairs the Duma's foreign affairs committee, said the debate was closed to avoid showing the world the "provocative manner and stupidity" of some deputies. Nationalist deputies have urged support for Afghanistan's ruling Taliban, which is under international pressure to hand over bin Laden.

Also in Moscow, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage met today with senior Russian officials to discuss potential terrorist threats coming from groups based in Afghanistan.