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Wednesday, September 2, 1998
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Cut defence ties with India
Clinton warns Yeltsin of war in S. Asia

MOSCOW, Sept 1 (Agencies) — The US President, Mr Bill Clinton, today urged his Russian counterpart Boris Yeltsin to stop military cooperation with India and warned that nuclear rivalry in South Asia could lead to a "direct war" between the two nuclear superpowers.

According to local radio ‘Echo Moskvy’, Mr Clinton’s plea came during his 30-minute meeting with Mr Yeltsin at the Kremlin soon after his arrival in the country embroiled in political and economic crises.

Expressing concern over arms race between India and Pakistan in the backdrop of nuclear rivalry in South Asia, close to the Russian borders, Mr Clinton warned that it could lead to a "direct war" between the two nuclear superpowers.

India remains the biggest customer of Russian arms in the world and Indian orders to the tune of $2 billion annually have a vital importance for the cash-strapped Russian economy.

According to the Russian Defence sources, Washington is greatly alarmed at the Delhi-Moscow negotiations for the development of an advanced air-defence system capable of protecting India from the "punitive" missile strikes similar to the recent US attacks on Afghanistan and Sudan.

Radical daily "Izvestia", believed to be close to the Russian Foreign Ministry, reported today that the US President, who arrived here for a two-day summit talks with Mr Yeltsin, was going to raise the issue of Russia’s military-technical cooperation with India.

Mr Clinton and Mr Yeltsin today held their first round of talks, with the latter promising not to backtrack on market reforms even as the American leader offered no new cash to help Russia cope up with the collapse of its economy.

Mr Yeltsin assured Mr Clinton that Russia "will not give up the foundation of reform accumulated over the recent years", but said that Moscow could temporarily reimpose state controls on the economy in a bid to overcome the current crisis, Interfax news agency said quoting Kremlin officials.

The fourth formal summit between the two leaders in five years took place soon after Mr Clinton arrived in the capital with an aim of seeking guarantees that market reforms will continue and the next government will not bow to Opposition demands for a return to Soviet-style state controls.

Though the meeting began in the presence of a large group of aides, the two leaders soon dismissed the advisers to get through the agenda as fast as possible.

Before the start of the meeting, Itar-Tass news agency quoted Mr Yeltsin as saying that "Bill Clinton and I are friends... Russia’s relations with the United States are developing well."

The two leaders met for summit talks even as Russia was embroiled in political and economic crises.

Mr Clinton was met at the airport by Acting Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin at his arrival here early today.

The summit is officially to focus on international politics or bilateral relations. But the agenda is likely to be disrupted by political developments in Russia where the Communist-dominated Parliament yesterday rejected Mr Yeltsin’s choice of Mr Chernomyrdin as Prime Minister.

The rejection triggered panic selling on the New York stock exchange.

Before leaving Washington, Mr Clinton urged Russians to resist a rollback of free-market reforms.

He said, "The reason I’m going to Russia is because we have learned the hard way that problems that develop beyond our borders sooner or later find their way to our doorstep unless we help our friends and our neighbours,"

His remarks seemed to signal his administration’s worry that Russia may backslide on its commitment "since the demise of Soviet Communism in 1991" to democracy and a free market economy.

Mr Clinton and Mr Yeltsin are to meet for their first full-scale summit since March 1997. Since then, they have met briefly a few times, most recently in May, when both were in Birmingham, England, for a meeting of industrial powers.

In his remarks yesterday, Mr Clinton made no direct mention of Mr Yeltsin or of Russian lawmakers’ rejection of the appointment of Mr Viktor Chernomyrdin as Prime Minister.

Instead, he offered praise for the Russian people’s refusal to revert to the past.

"The Russian people are to be commended for embracing democracy and getting rid of the old Communist system," he said.

"What I want to do is to go there and tell them that the easy thing to do is not the right thing to do,’’ he said in an apparent reference to pressure from the Communist faction to renationalise some industries and move away from western-style free enterprise.

"If they will stay on the path of reform, to stabilise their society and to strengthen their economy and to get growth back, then I believe America and the rest of the western nations with strong economies should help them and indeed have an obligation to help them," he said.back

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