The defence ministers of Russia and the United States have expressed hope for early preparation of a maximally effective text of an agreement on strategic offensive arms reductions. Sergei Ivanov and Donald Rumsfeld made this statement at a press conference on Monday upon their meeting at Moscow's Sheremetyevo-1 airport. The ministers emphasised that "certain progress has been achieved" in negotiations on some issues. At the same time, Ivanov said he "would not like to comment in public on the course of the negotiations on strategic offensive armaments" because "this issue is very delicate." The minister pointed out that the main role in preparing the final text will be played by the U.S. Department of State and Russia's Foreign Ministry. He noted that "the military exchanged frank views on the existing drafts of the agreement." The Russian minister said that four or five days ago Russia had sent to Americans "several new ideas that could underlie an agreement on strategic offensive armaments." Although Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld was making a tour of Central Asia and Afghanistan at the time, the U.S. party had already studied these proposals, Ivanov said. In the course of today's negotiations "we expressed our views and listened to proposals of the U.S. party," Ivanov said. "I think that today we have achieved certain progress," he pointed out. The minister noted that in a few days Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov will go to Washington to continue these negotiations. By that time, the defence minister said, "Russia will be ready to respond to today's U.S. proposals and give further comments." At the same time, Ivanov pointed out that a final decision on the agreement's signing will be made by the presidents of the two countries.
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