Stalled pre-summit talks signal end of U.S.-Russian 'honeymoon'


GENEVA -- Russian Foreign Minister Andrei V. Kozyrev said yesterday that the Washington-Moscow "honeymoon has come to an end," as he and Secretary of State Warren Christopher failed to resolve major differences that have emerged between the former Cold War enemies.

They did manage to paper over a festering dispute about Russia's planned $1 billion sale of nuclear technology to Iran by turning the matter over to a new U.S.-Russia study group. The panel was told to prepare a report before the meeting of President Clinton and Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin in May.

But in a joint news conference, the foreign ministers bickered openly over the Iran deal's implications.

Mr. Christopher said he told Mr. Kozyrev "of our strong opposition to Russian nuclear cooperation with Iran" and indicated he had given him secret intelligence to support that.

But Mr. Kozyrev insisted, "We don't see any problem here" because the Iranian deal will be subjected to international safeguards.

They also demonstrated a sharp disagreement over Russian participation in the annual summit of the world's leading economic powers.

Mr. Kozyrev said Russia wants "a broader degree of participation" in June at the Halifax, Nova Scotia, summit of the Group of Seven nations. But Mr. Christopher said there will be no upgrade in Russian participation as long as fighting continues in Chechnya.

Both officials agreed that the main purpose of their two-day meeting was to set the agenda for the Clinton-Yeltsin summit.

They said they will meet next month to continue the talks. But it was clear the good feeling that followed the Cold War's end is over.

Picking up a metaphor used in a question from a Russian journalist, Mr. Kozyrev said: "Indeed, the honeymoon has come to an end."

But he said there would be no divorce and "something that we won't allow to happen is unfaithfulness."

Mr. Christopher acknowledged friction in the relationship but said, "Where there are differences, we are determined to address them forthrightly, fully and candidly."

And while the two sounded glum about the superpower relations, Russian news media cast the meeting as a sleeves-up session between congenial partners and the May summit as evidence that Washington values its relations with Russia.

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