DATE=4/26/2000 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=U-S - RUSSIA ARMS NUMBER=5-46203 BYLINE=DAVID GOLLUST DATELINE=WHITE HOUSE CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: The Clinton administration says it will continue seeking a compromise with Russia on missile defenses and new strategic arms cuts -- this despite a threat by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms to block any arms deals made in the final months of President Clinton's term. V-O-A's David Gollust reports from the White House. TEXT: Mr. Helms' chairmanship gives him powerful tools to impede action on arms agreements. But administration officials say he does not represent the entire Senate, and if an acceptable compromise can be forged with Moscow on missile defenses and arms cuts this year, the White House will do its persuasive best to get enabling legislation through the Senate. The comments follow a stark warning by Chairman Helms in a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday that he will allow no arms agreements to move through his committee for the rest of President Clinton's term, in order to give Mr. Clinton's successor a free hand in nuclear policy-making. The conservative Senator Helms - who has sparred with the Clinton White House on past arms issues - says he fears President Clinton wants to conclude an arms accord with Moscow in his final months in office that would impede the United States' ability to develop a missile defense. The administration is hoping that Moscow - as part of an arms package this year - will accept amendments to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty that will enable United States to deploy a limited defense system aimed at intercepting missiles fired by North Korea or other so-called "rogue states." But in his Senate speech, Senator Helms reiterated his stand that the A-B-M treaty, concluded with the now- defunct Soviet government, is no longer in force. He warned that any agreement maintaining the A-B-M treaty and limiting U-S missile defense efforts would be, in his words, "dead on arrival" in the Senate: /// HELMS ACTUALITY /// After dragging his feet on missile defense for eight years, Mr. Clinton now fervently hopes that he will be permitted in his final eight months in office to tie the hands of the next president of the United States. He believes that he will be allowed to constrain the next administration from pursuing a real national missile defense. Is that what he believes, or even hopes? Well, I for one have a message for President Clinton: not on my watch, Mr. President. Not on my watch. It's not going to happen. /// END ACT /// The Clinton administration agrees with Moscow that the A-B-M treaty is still valid. But White House officials believe a deal can be struck that would give the United States leeway under the treaty to field a limited defense system - possibly in exchange for the deeper strategic arms reductions sought by Moscow under a proposed START-Three treaty. The administration has already begun preliminary negotiations with Moscow on such an arrangement. And State Department spokesman James Rubin says he hopes that if an accord can be reached that meets U-S needs, the Senate will approve it -- Senator Helms' views notwithstanding: /// RUBIN ACTUALITY /// If the Russians can agree to that, we will be making a very strong and powerful case that this is the course of wisdom for the United States. And it's not a surprise to us that there are senators that would wish the A-B-M treaty would go away. They've been trying to do that for quite some time. That's not new. And so what we will do is make the most persuasive case that we can - if we get this amendment - that this is the best way to defend the United States while advancing American security. And we hope that all senators put the national interest over any potential ideological opposition to a treaty from 30 years ago. /// END ACT /// Senator Helms delivered his warning to the Clinton White House as Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was in Washington for talks laying groundwork for the Moscow summit between President Clinton and Russian president-elect Vladimir Putin planned for the first week in June. In a talk with reporters at Washington's National Press Club, Mr. Ivanov - who spoke through an interpreter - said abandoning the A-B-M treaty would be a "fatal mistake" that would undo 30 years of disarmament efforts: /// IVANOV-INTERPRETER ACTUALITY /// Washington will either ratify a similar package, and preserve the A-B-M treaty, which will open the way to the continuation of the process of significant reductions of strategic offensive arms and strategic stability. Or the line in favor of implementation by the U-S of the national missile defense system deployment plans will prevail - which would inevitably undermine the whole architecture in the area of disarmament, which our countries have been building together with the world community for the past 30 years. /// END ACT /// Mr. Ivanov said Moscow is open to a "constructive alternative" to an A-B-M confrontation involving a START-Three deal that would reduce strategic arsenals to 15-hundred warheads on both sides. That would be only half the number allowable under the START-Two treaty, which was ratified by the Russian parliament earlier this month after years of delay. (Signed) NEB/DAG/TVM/gm 26-Apr-2000 16:55 PM EDT (26-Apr-2000 2055 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .