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Europe

Mixed Reactions to U.S. ABM Pullout

The U.S. decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty got mixed reactions. Some governments say they are concerned, others call it a mistake, still others see it as a chance for disarmament.

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President Bush making the announcement to scrape the treaty on Thursday.

U.S. President George W. Bush on Thursday announced his country would withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in six months. This means that the United States will be free to proceed with its plans to install a missile defense system.

NATO refrains from judgement

NATO has avoided directly judging Bush's announcement. The alliance members have opposing views on the issue.

In recent months some NATO members like France and Germany tried to urge Bush to stick to the ABM-Treaty. They saw the 1972 treaty as a fundamental part of stability and arms control.

Other countries like Britain, Italy and Spain were more supportive of Bush's plans to scrape the deal.

On Thursday, NATO only said it welcomed Washington's pledge to work with Moscow to increase stability and cooperation on security issues.

Germany hopes for arms reduction

Germany's Foreign Ministry expressed its hope that the U.S. decision to withdraw from the ABM-Treaty would lead to further arms cuts.

The Foreign Ministry reiterated that Germany would have welcomed a revision of the ABM-Treaty. But the ministry stressed that Bush's decision to cancel the ABM Treaty was tied to a declaration to drastically reduce Russian and American nuclear arsenals.

Russia says U.S. decision a mistake

Russia's President Vladimir Putin called the American decision to withdraw from the ABM-Treaty a "mistake". Putin said President Bush's announcement didn't come as a surprise. Russia and the United States had been at odds over the ABM-Treaty for months.

For Russia, the 1972 treaty represented the cornerstone of a larger security framework. But Putin knew that the U.S. had to abandon the treaty if it wanted to press ahead with its national missile defense system.

Putin said the U.S. decision would not have any security implications for Russia. "Unlike other nuclear powers of the world, Russia has the capability to pierce a national missile shield," Putin said.

Putin offers further arms reduction

The Russian President on Thursday announced he would slash his country's nuclear arsenal by a third. Russia would then have between 1,500 and 2,200 nuclear warheads.

Last month, George W. Bush had proposed the U.S. would make similar cuts over the next ten years.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the two countries would continue discussing a new strategic framework of arms control.

He hoped everything could be brought into "some legal form" that the two presidents could sign when Bush visits Russia next summer.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov is due to meet U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in Brussels next week.

Rumsfeld said the two would attempt to "find a framework that can replace the treaty."

China expresses concern

A spokeswoman for China's foreign ministry said Beijing had taken note of the American decision to withdraw from the ABM-Treaty and expressed concern.

She said China was not in favor of missile defense systems and worried about the negative impacts.

The Chinese government fears the U.S. missile defense shield could eventually be extended to cover its arch-rival Taiwan.

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