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(Gore, Chernomyrdin could wrap up Iran arms problem)  (490)

By Bruce Odessey

USIA Staff Writer

Washington -- As Vice President Al Gore prepares to meet Russian Prime

Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, uncertainty persists whether

negotiations can begin on Russian participation in a proposed

export-control regime.

Gore will visit Moscow for the fifth meeting of the Gore-Chernomyrdin

Commission June 29-30 and for a private meeting between the two men

July 1.

According to a senior Clinton administration official who asked not to

be identified, one issue on the private-meeting agenda concerns

Russian participation in a proposed export-control regime, a successor

group to the Coordinating Committee on Multilateral Export Controls


COCOM dissolved in March 1994 after 45 years of successfully blocking

exports of advanced technology to the former Soviet bloc. Even before

that, 23 COCOM members and other cooperating countries started talking

about creating a COCOM successor regime aimed at denying exports of

advanced technology and conventional weapons to pariah states.

Disagreements among the 23 about membership for Russia have stalled

those negotiations ever since. Especially troublesome for the United

States were continuing Russian conventional weapons sales to Iran.

After the May 11 meeting between Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin, a

State Department official disclosed that the two leaders had resolved

the problem to U.S. satisfaction.

He said then that Gore and Chernomyrdin would prepare by their June

meeting a document recording the latest understanding, including

assurances that Russia would make no new arms sales to Iran and, in

fulfilling a 1988 contract, would give Iran no new capabilities or

alter the regional military balance.

With the Gore-Chernomyrdin meeting now only days off, the unidentified

administration official indicated that work still remains unfinished.

"Do I know if we got the final words in the bag and all they have to

do is sign?" the administration official said. "I don't know that yet,

but I am hopeful that they will."

A deal would allow negotiations to start for the post-COCOM regime,

destined potentially to include not only Russia but also the Czech

Republic, Hungary and Poland, he indicated.

As for the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission, he said, the eight sub-groups

will focus attention June 29 on trade and investment issues and June

30 on space and science issues.

The trade issues include assistance for Russia and investments there,

especially energy-related ones, as well as agriculture, the subject

for a just-added sub-group.

Among the science issues are joint space program activities,

especially support for an international space station, protection of

the Arctic and application of intelligence data to environmental


The administration official said he expected announcement on the

opening of a civilian research and development foundation to employ

Russian scientists displaced from their jobs, similar to a foundation

already opened for Russian scientists in the defense sector.