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President Bush Meets Russian Ministers

Aired September 20, 2002 - 11:32   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you right outside the White House there, where the Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and the Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov have just finished meeting with President Bush, talking about whether they will indeed be supporting the U.S. in its plans against Iraq.
Let's listen in now.

First, you'll be hearing from the translator -- first you'll be hearing from Russia, the foreign minister, and then the translator.

IGOR IVANOV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): In the framework of this partnership, we are expanding cooperation on the issues of strategic stability, on the fight against common global threats and challenges, and in direction of strategic area.

I. IVANOV (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): An important element of this cooperation must become the consultative group on strategic security formed by the presidents of the two countries, and which includes the ministers of defense and foreign affairs on both sides.

Later today, we will be holding the first meeting of this commission. And we believe that it will have permanent character and the discussions in the framework of this commission will include all issues from strategic stability to regional security.

During my two days trip to Washington, I had meetings with leaders of almost all U.S. agencies dealing with security issues. We had frank discussions on the entire range of issues starting from strategic stability to regional conflicts.

SERGEI IVANOV, RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Today, we're launching a bilateral mechanism to implement the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions.

Our respective defense agencies have already formed, more than several months ago, working groups dealing not only with these issues, but also with other issues like cooperation on ABM. We certainly discussed in full details the situation in crisis and hot spots in the world.

First of all, in terms of conquering the threat of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, we jointly came to the conclusion which we have just reported to President Bush that, among other things, the Russian-American cooperation on Afghanistan is going on very successfully. S. IVANOV (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Our common line in this issue is to provide comprehensive assistance to the interim government of Afghanistan, to raise its authority and give it full mechanisms to deal with the domestic situation in the country.

I would like to give you firsthand information that we have received a formal invitation from the Department of Defense of the United States to send a group -- already a second group of Russian investigators to the U.S. base in Guantanamo to participate in the questioning of Russian citizens detained there. This group, which will include representatives of the Office of Prosecutor General and other agencies, will go there in October. They will participate in questioning of five Russian citizens who were recently detained and now are located in Guantanamo.

The U.S. side conveyed to us in detail its approaches to the situation around Iraq. On our part, we explained to our U.S. counterparts and provided to them clear proofs proving that a number of Georgian authorities have direct ties to the terrorists.

QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Does the U.S. side share the concerns raised by Russia with respect to the situation on the Georgian border? And is the United States going to cooperate with Russians on this issue?

S. IVANOV (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I believe that the U.S. side shares our concerns. And this is, among other things, proven by recent statement by Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz.

As to our readiness to take concrete actions, we have, on numerous occasions, urged the other side to take concrete actions and not to limit ourselves by empty talks. And we are ready now to act in any format, both bilateral and multilateral.

QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Are there any common points in the way the U.S. side and the Russian-side interpret the situation around Iraq?

S. IVANOV (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I wouldn't make any parallels between them. These are two completely different problems.

If we are talking about torture (ph), it's our firm belief that there is no need to give any further proofs to anyone. In our view, everything is already completely clear.

S. IVANOV (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): A very real and not hypothetical threat emanates from the territory of Georgia threatening our security, including our military security.

QUESTION: What is your position on a U.N. resolution regarding Saddam Hussein? Do you believe it is not necessary at this time? Do you still hold that position? Or has the president swayed you to move forward on that?

I. IVANOV (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Russia and the United States are firmly in favor that Iraq should fully comply with the provisions of all respective resolutions of the Security Council. Russia and the United States firmly believe that the international U.N. inspectors must return to Iraq. It was to a large extent thanks to our efforts that the agreement to readmit U.N. inspectors to Iraq was obtained.

Russia and the United States are firmly interested in making the work of international inspectors in Iraq effective and in ensuring that this work gives a clear answer whether there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or not. And we agree to pursue the exchange of views on how to make the work of the inspectors more effective.

Thank you.

WHITFIELD: You have been listening to a cabinet -- members of the Russian government, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, all say that while the U.S. and Russia do not necessarily see eye to eye on exactly how to deal with Iraq on the hole scale, they do at least come to agreement that the U.N. inspectors need to be returned there. They had just met with President Bush earlier today, and there were a number of topics that the foreign minister and defense minister just addressed, that they talked with President Bush about.

Among them also, they also said they received an invitation from the Defense Department, inviting Russia to send its own investigators to Guantanamo, where there are a number of detainees there, five of whom are Russian citizens. Let's bring in our CNN senior White House correspondent John King, who has been monitoring developments there from the White House.

And, John, no surprises there, that Russia still endorses the idea of U.N. inspectors going in, but they don't necessarily, or are still very cool on the idea, of any kind of U.S. military action.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But perhaps, Fredricka, if you are listening to the final sentence of the Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, perhaps there are hints of some possible progress. Russia has been saying consistently, it see no need for a new Security Council Resolution. It believes the inspectors should go in, as Saddam Hussein has invited them in, and only if they are interfered with, should the Security Council revisit the issue of Iraq.

The foreign minister says at very end, Russia is open to an exchange of views with the United States about how to make those inspections most effective. What the United States says is that you need a Security Council resolution first, that says, as the inspect go in, if there is interference, there could be military strikes. President Bush is insisting that resolution must be in place first. As of last night, the Russian government saying, it did not believe such a resolution was necessary.

So a possible hint of progress there in the foreign minister saying, Russia is open to a continuing exchange of views with the United States in how to make those inspections most effective, and this meeting, we should note, with the defense minister and the foreign minister in the Oval Office, came about an hour and half after President Bush picked up the phone and appealed directly in making his case on Iraq directly with Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

We will continue to track to see if this is what proof of the administration has been telling us, that in private, their diplomacy about a new resolution is much more encouraging than public statements we have seen from Russia and other governments.

WHITFIELD: It will be interesting to hear from the president who perhaps is feeling some optimism in having heard that there is perhaps some wiggle room, that there will be a further exchange of views here, coming between the U.S. and Russia.

KING: That is certainly the case here, although we are not scheduled to hear from the president directly today. But we will try to get reaction from the White House, but what the foreign minister. He is a diplomat, and he speaks in quite polite diplomatic language. But there is an opening to diplomatic discussion, and that was something that was not the case, or at least the public position of the Russian government. Last night was there was no need for a resolution unless the inspectors are interfered with. So some wiggle room, we might call it.

In diplomacy, they would call it a fruitful exchange of views.

WHITFIELD: Senior White house correspondent John King, thank you very much.


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