Wed, Jun 02, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Russia joins WMD alliance

REUTERS , MOSCOW ANDKRAKOW, POLAND

Russia cast aside its doubts on Monday and joined a US-led alliance of countries prepared to board ships and raid suspect factories in a crackdown against weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Moscow become the 15th core member of US President George W. Bush's Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) just as it began a meeting in the southern Polish city of Krakow.

Bush launched the initiative, designed to stop such arms ending up in states viewed with distrust by Washington, such as North Korea and Iran, during a visit to Krakow a year ago.

"The threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is global and accordingly requires a global response," Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "We are sure that we can cope with the problem only through a collective effort."

US Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton said in Krakow the search for ships carrying WMD would greatly benefit from the involvement of Russia's vast navy.

"We worked for this from the start of this initiative," Bolton told reporters. "I expect that the United States and Russia will now enhance our intelligence sharing in the area of trafficking of weapons of mass destruction."

Russia initially had strong reservations about Bush's initiative, fearing that a right to intercept suspicious vessels could give a legal role of global policeman to the US, which has the strongest naval presence across the world.

Another concern was the PSI could be used to hamper Russia's commercial interests because it trades with many countries at odds with Washington.

The PSI aims to improve the legal structure for inspect arms shipments, tighten controls over exports of nuclear materials and remove barriers for intelligence sharing between countries to keep terror groups from getting their hands on WMD.

"The failure of concerted action would only mean more chaos and unpredictability," Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz told delegates.

"There is no blueprint, no plan for the perfect international order. We won't be able to move towards it without failures but we must have clear signposts on this road," he said.

Russia announced its decision to join a week before a summit of the G8 major industrial nations at Sea Island, Georgia, where the PSI is going to be high on the agenda.

Russia said it would contribute to the PSI if this did not violate international or domestic law.

"We assume that actions within this initiative should not and will not create obstacles to legal economic, scientific and technical cooperation," the Foreign Ministry said.

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