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Russia: Putin Says 'Quite Flexible' On ABM Treaty

Washington, 7 November 2001 (RFE/RL) -- President Vladimir Putin says Russia has a "flexible" position on the U.S. missile-defense plan and that a deal with Washington might be possible. Putin makes the comment in an interview in the Kremlin with the American television network ABC. The interview was given ahead of Putin's summit in the United States on 13-15 November with President George W. Bush.

Putin said any deal with Washington to alter the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty would require intense negotiations, but that he thinks a compromise could be possible.

"Well, it's somewhat difficult for me to talk about this with certainty, but I should say the compromise can only be found as a result of very intense negotiations," Putin said when asked about the ABM treaty during an interview on ABC's "20/20" program, to be broadcast today. His remarks were translated into English by a Russian interpreter and distributed by the network.

"Anyway, our position in this is quite flexible," Putin added. "We believe that the ABM Treaty of 1972 is important, essential, effective, and useful, but we have a negotiating platform starting from which we could reach agreements. At least I hope so."

Russia has strongly supported upholding the ABM treaty, which prohibits the type of missile-shield system the Bush administration wants to build.

Putin praised Bush as a leader who stays true to his word and as someone the Kremlin can do business with.

Putin denied in the interview that Russia has been transferring technology to Iran for missiles and weapons of mass destruction. He acknowledged that Russia has atomic energy projects with Iran, but said these do not concern nuclear weapons.

Putin also said he has ruled out sending Russian troops on combat missions in Afghanistan, but said he has offered the U.S. military help with any rescue operations on Afghan territory. He said Russia is sharing with the U.S. intelligence information about Afghanistan.

The broadcast of the Putin interview also coincides with the anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. People across Russia turned out today to mark the anniversary, known as Revolution Day until former President Boris Yeltsin renamed it the Day of Accord and Reconciliation.

In Moscow, Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov led a march to a statue of communist philosopher Karl Marx near Red Square. The number of people marching was reportedly down from previous years.

In Russia's Far East some 1,000 people held a meeting on Lenin Square in Khabarovsk, and about 3,000 people in Krasnoyarsk participated in demonstrations, some calling for a change in Russia's economic policies.