Tracking Number:  291270

Title:  "Rocket Engine Sale Stalls Russian Premier's Visit." A planned visit to the US by Russia's new Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, and future cooperation between the two countries in space technology are being held up by a dispute over Russia's proposed sale of rocket engines to India. (930625)

Translated Title:  Venta motor cohete detiene visita premier Ruso. (930625)
Date:  19930625


(Sanctions imposed, waived as talks continue) (720) By Russell Dybvik USIA Diplomatic Correspondent Washington -- A planned visit to the United States by Russia's new prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, and future cooperation between the two countries in space technology are being held up by a dispute over Russia's proposed sale of rocket engines to India, the State Department said June 25.

"We are working hard to achieve a successful outcome," department spokesman Michael McCurry told a news briefing. "That's a subject that we continue to discuss with the Russians very intensely."

Chernomyrdin announced June 24 that he had postponed his visit to Washington and McCurry said the delay was by mutual agreement. "It was related to outstanding issues that we have under discussion with the Russians," he said.

"We certainly expect him to be meeting with the vice president, most likely some time next month," the spokesman said. But no date for Chernomyrdin's visit has been set pending the outcome of the discussions now underway.

At issue is Russia's planned sale of liquid-fueled rocket engines to India, which prompted the United States to impose sanctions in May 1992 against the Russian state enterprise involved as well as the Indian firm that was to receive the rocket engines.

While talks are continuing with Moscow on Chernomyrdin's postponed visit, "they are very directly connected to the outcome of this matter," McCurry said.

The United States maintains the sale would violate Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) guidelines and its annexes. The MTCR is designed principally to prevent the proliferation of dangerous weapons systems. Russia is not a member of the MTCR, but Moscow asserts it adheres to its guidelines.

The New York Times reported June 25 that the United States has imposed sanctions on Russian companies for selling missile technology to India in violation of the MTCR guidelines, but has waived the sanctions until next month while Washington and Moscow try to resolve their differences.

"I don't want to confirm the entire story, but I don't have any reason to dispute that account," McCurry told questioners. "The issues under discussion involve the Missile Technology Control Regime guidelines and its annexes."

Later, a senior department official confirmed that the decision to impose sanctions, but waive them temporarily while the discussions were continuing, was taken late last week. The official spoke to reporters on condition that he not be identified.

"We waived them because we are in a negotiation with them that we hope will be successful," he said. "They knew that we were prepared to impose these new sanctions. They knew that we would have to see some resolution of the matter prior to Chernomyrdin's visit," the senior official said. "It's very much up in the air," he added.

The official said the original sanctions covered the same transaction that is under dispute. "We developed new evidence in the period since May 1992 that led us to impose these new sanctions," he said, but he declined to elaborate.

While the same rocket engines are at the heart of the matter, he said, the new evidence shows that "there were additional enterprises involved." He characterized them as "privatized enterprises" that had acted with the knowledge of the Russian government.

Member nations of the MTCR are obligated to impose sanctions on firms that violate MTCR guidelines. Under U.S. law, those sanctions are mandated by the Arms Export Control Regime. They prevent U.S. firms from conducting certain transactions for a certain period of time with the firm on which sanctions have been placed.

Asked if the Russians had been more responsive when U.S. officials advised them new sanctions would be imposed, the senior official said the Russians were "more concerned."

He pointed out that "Chernomyrdin wants to come and talk about cooperation on space technology. We're saying 'no way unless you guys resolve all these questions about rocket engines and the other things that we consider dual use technologies that are covered by MTCR,'" the official said. "They say 'we're not going to come unless you guys are going to talk about space' and we say 'we're not going to talk until you guys resolve this issue.' So that's kind of where the matter is right now."