Chief U.S. arms negotiator Richard Burt said Tuesday that President Bush plans to take advantage of the Soviet Union's increased willingness to allow verification of nuclear weapons reductions.
The Strategic Arms Reduction Talks resumed Monday in Geneva after a seven-month recess.Bush proposed in Washington on Monday that the United States and Soviet Union begin testing verification procedures during negotiations on reducing long-range nuclear forces, rather than waiting until a pact is completed.
Such steps could involve trial inspections at each other's missile sites and discussions about equipment needed for verification, which Bush said could be the most complex issue facing negotiators.
"We have noticed that the Soviets have taken a much more open and constructive approach on verification in recent years," Burt said at a news conference.
He declined to discuss Bush's proposals in detail.
Tuesday's editions of the Washington Post quoted an unidentified official in Washington as saying negotiators plan to suggest round-the-clock monitoring of some ballistic missile factories and on-site checks of missile warheads, to start before any new agreement. The proposal also was reported to include a ban on some missile flight tests.
Burt said that another aim of Bush's plan is to build support for Senate ratification of a future arms treaty.
Several superpower arms control treaties, including the 1979 SALT II pact on limiting long-range nuclear arsenals, remained unratified because the Senate decided the verification provisions were lax.
Reiterating the White House position, Burt said progress on verification would not become a condition in the START talks.
"We will continue to move on all fronts," he said. "We are not proposing these measures as a take-it-or-leave-it package."