Tuesday, June 6, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Clinton allays Russia’s fears

MOSCOW, June 5 (AFP, AP) — The US President, Mr Bill Clinton, sought to allay Russian fears about US plans to build a missile defence shield in an historic address to Russian lawmakers here today.

In a wide-ranging 43-minute speech, Mr Clinton said he wanted to see a strong and prosperous Russia, urged it to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and touched on Chechnya, terrorism, the economy and social issues.

Only the President, Mr Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, has previously been accorded the honour of addressing both Houses of Parliament.

Lawmakers from the state Duma and Federation Council, the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament, listened in silence to Mr Clinton and offered polite but brief applause at the end of his address.

In his comments Mr Clinton urged an honest and open debate on the impact of the $ 60 billion defence shield on which he is due to take a decision this summer, and insisted it would not hurt Russia’s nuclear deterrence.

Nuclear missile defence (NMD) had become necessary because of the growing threat that weapons of mass destruction could fall “into hands that will threaten us both — rogue states, terrorists, organised criminal groups,” Mr Clinton said.

The US leader said he wanted the response to boost “the strategic stability and arms control regimes” between Russia and the USA, adding: “The system we are contemplating will not undermine Russia’s deterrence, or the principles of mutually assured destruction and strategic stability”.

Mr Clinton said, “I believe we ought to be able to reach an agreement about how we should proceed at each step along the way here that preserves mutual deterrence, preserves strategic stability and preserves the ABM treaty.”

Russia opposes NMD, saying it will hurt Russia’s deterrence and spark a new arms race Moscow can ill-afford.

However, the two sides have so far failed to agree related deep cuts in nuclear arsenals that Moscow is demanding in exchange, leaving Mr Clinton with the dilemma of heeding Russian concerns or pushing ahead regardless. Mr Clinton’s speech to Russia’s Lower House of Parliament today, the first by a US President, drew only restrained applause, not a standing ovation, from deputies and some anti-western politicians even branded his comments as ‘offensive’ and ‘arrogant’.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, renowned for his colourful nationalist rhetoric, leapt to his feet as Mr Clinton left the podium in the state Duma and yelled in English: “Don’t interfere in our home affairs lift sanctions from Iraq’’.

Zhirinovsky can always be expected to rant against the united states and all its ways, but even more moderate politicians were not impressed by all that Mr Clinton had to say.

The clash between the USA and Russia over missile shields reflects both cold war-era concerns about a devastating nuclear attack and different views of the world today.

Mr Putin inched closer at the summit here to Mr Clinton’s view that North Korea, Iran and possibly other hostile nations pose an emerging nuclear threat. But Mr Putin held fast to a ban on national missile defenses. Mr Clinton, on the other hand, said he wants to save the landmark pact by changing it to legitimize at least a limited defence.

However, for Mr Clinton and Mr Putin, reserved smiles replaced the gripping embraces and boisterous good humour of Mr Clinton’s meetings with former Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

“For me, President Clinton is a... person who is a very comfortable and pleasant partner in negotiations,” Mr Putin said at a news conference with Mr Clinton at his side.

Mr Clinton was less personal in response to the same question on how the two leaders view each other: “If you want to know what my personal assessment is, I think he is fully capable of building a prosperous and strong Russia while preserving freedom, pluralism, and the rule of law.”

Mr Clinton fielded curious Russians’ questions about how he made his first dollar — and would he mind being “first mister” if his wife Hillary ever becomes president?

Mr Clinton appeared to relax and enjoy himself in the informal setting of a 25-minute call-in show in the studio of echo of Moscow radio yesterday, which followed formal talks at Kremlin with Mr Putin.

Ordinary Russians appeared eager to hear about Mr Clinton’s personal life — information they rarely get from their own leaders, including Mr Putin. Hundreds of people had sent in questions hours in advance by e-mail and on the phone.


58 killed in Sumatra quake

JAKARTA, June 5 (AFP) — At least 58 persons were killed and hundreds injured after a massive earthquake measuring up to 7.9 on the Richter scale and several powerful aftershocks, hit the Indonesian island of Sumatra last night.

The state Antara news agency said three hospitals in the worst hit city of Bengkulu had reported a total of 40 dead and “hundreds” injured, while the Detikom online service reported 11 killed in outlaying districts.

Detikcom quoted a local journalist as saying seven persons were killed in Sukaraja sub-district, three in South and North Bengkulu districts.

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh Tribune | In Spotlight |
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
120 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |