Russia slams US decision to keep it on WMD list

January 12, 2002

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MOSCOW, Jan 11: Russia on Friday slammed a US. decision to keep it on a list of states with a poor track record on the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), as old disputes returned to haunt the allies in the war against terrorism.

Last week President George W. Bush allowed U.S. technology firms to sell high-speed computers to countries previously excluded by a Cold War-era ban designed to limit the spread of nuclear arms.

But Russia remained in the third of four categories, far below countries deemed “reliable” by the United States, the Foreign Ministry said.

“This draws attention to the preservation of the Cold War-era system of open discrimination, dividing countries which import U.S. computer technology into different risk groups,” the ministry said in a sharply-worded statement.

“We would like to hope that, in the light of the new strategic relationship announced by the president of the United States and the president of the Russian Federation, the American administration will reconsider this discriminatory decision.”

Washington slapped a ban on high-speed computer exports in 1979, in a bid to restrict advanced computing power that could allow countries such as Libya and Cuba to develop missile systems and other weapons of mass destruction.

Exports to Canada, Mexico and all of Western Europe do not face such restrictions.

Russia’s sharp reaction came amid signs that the honeymoon period in the Russian-U.S. alliance forged following the September 11 airline attacks, was under strain.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was the first foreign leader to telephone President Bush to offer his support after the hijacked airliner strikes on New York and Washington.

Initially, the support won Putin a second hearing on his two-year crackdown on rebels in Russia’s secessionist Chechnya province. But as the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan winds down the issue has resurfaced, along with fears over media freedoms and disagreements over arms control.

WAR OF WORDS:On Thursday, the United States accused Russia of using “overwhelming force” in its battle to crush Chechen rebels.

“The latest information on Russian operations in Chechnya indicates a continuation of human rights violations and the use of force against civilian targets,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Senior Kremlin aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky refused to comment on the statement, and some experts said Moscow could now come under renewed pressure from the West.

“If there does not appear that there is a serious attempt to provide a political solution, if it looks like there are still a lot of abuses by Russian troops, then this is going to be an enormous source of irritation,” Robert Nurick of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said.—Reuters.