En route Helsinki aboard Air Force One, a senior Administration official reported on the arms control aspects of the summit to the press accompanying the official delegation. White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry briefed the traveling White House press corps in Helsinki, Finland, where they assembled to report on the summit meeting between President Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin.



President Clinton will be meeting with President Yeltsin "in a spirit that is open and candid and realistic in dealing with some of the differences that exist," McCurry said. The official working meetings between the two leaders take place March 21.

Asked about "seemingly conciliatory" statements made by Yeltsin as he arrived in Helsinki, McCurry said, "There are always prior to a meeting different degrees of public statements made. I think ours have been focused on exactly the working agenda the President brings here to Helsinki -- European security, the future of arms control, the importance of economic growth in Russia for the Russian Federation and for the people of Russia, and charting this relationship, as we think of the 21st century, where we want the United States and the Russian Federation to be as we think about the future of Europe" and "about cleaning away all the last residues of the Cold War era."

Asked if there will be "any movement on the Russian request to extend the January 1, 2003 deadline" for the date by which START II is supposed to be fully in effect, McCurry said, "Well, there will be a lot of discussion about where we are with START II, what the status of ratification is in the Duma, what the implications are as we look beyond START II and what the timing will be for, perhaps, a third round of strategic arms reductions -- I don't want to preview that now because we clearly will be doing a lot of work on that tomorrow."



En route Helsinki aboard Air Force One, a senior Administration official reported on the arms control aspects of the summit to the press accompanying the official delegation. Following is what the press pool reported from Air Force One:

The senior official said that the Russians and the Americans have been working hard on both the Anti-Ballistic Missile-Theater Missile Defense and the START issues for the last four to six weeks. "We think we have some interesting proposals separate" from NATO enlargement," the official said. "The question is whether we can come close to an understanding or not. It could go either way," the official said. "There's no reason we shouldn't be able to."

He suggested that the Russians would have to decide whether they even wanted side agreements on arms control issues coming out of what is clearly going to be a contentious summit dominated by the question of NATO enlargement.

On START II/START III, he said, the "central objective on the strategic side at this summit is to get a clear, unequivocal commitment (from Yeltsin) to go ahead and move START II through the Duma (Russian Parliament) this spring and not string it out any longer."

The U.S. and Russia, he said, have been working on "guidelines" for a START III agreement to address some of Russia's strategic concerns about START II and make ratification more likely.

The official said the United States is not willing to bend the deadline for warhead removal, but might be willing to allow them some additional time for missile silo destruction. "If the warheads come off, we would be prepared to be more flexible on the silos," he said. "What is key to us that we hold to the original START schedule, at least in terms of taking the warheads. It's the warheads that kill people."

On the Anti-Ballistic Missile-Theater Missile Defense issue, the senior official said another objective was to reach agreement with the Russians that work could go ahead on five out of six theater missile defense systems and be consistent with the ABM treaty -- leaving one faster system still to be negotiated.