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    Missile Defense

Russian military leaders have expressed concern about US plans for a national missile defense system. Will defense technology be limited by possibilities for a strategic imbalance? Is this just SDI all over again?

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lunarchick - 11:42pm Mar 25, 2001 EST (#1506 of 1509)

Russia and U.S. argue about the rent

Last updated: 24 Mar 2001 09:04 GMT+00:00 (Reuters)

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Put aside, for a moment, the biggest spy row since the Cold War. Russia is prepared to seek arbitration in another diplomatic dispute: the rent the United States owes for its ambassador's Moscow house.

Interfax news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Sergeyev as saying Moscow was determined to get $6 million it believes it is owed in rent for Spaso House, a palatial vintage mansion in the Russian capital's most prestigious neighbourhood.

A lack of new initiatives from Washington to resolve the problem "will oblige Russia to transfer the case to international arbitration," Interfax quoted Sergeyev as saying.

Under a Soviet-era contract, Washington paid 72,500 roubles per year in rent for the mansion and its grounds, Interfax said.

That would have been a respectable sum back then. But runaway post-Soviet inflation made it all but worthless: taking into account the three zeros that were lopped off the rouble in the mid 1990s, it adds up to a little more than $3 today.

Interfax said Washington missed a rent payment in 1993, and Moscow used that as an excuse to tear up the contract and demand market-level rent.

Since then, the embassy has paid the Soviet-era rent, but the Russian company that manages diplomatic property has sent the money back, Interfax said.

It said Washington had offered to cancel World War Two-era debts owed by Moscow in return for being given the residence outright, but quoted Sergeyev as saying such a barter deal for debt would be illegal.

"The Russian side cannot but be pleased by demonstrations that the Americans are seeking to resolve the problem of diplomatic real estate, but the offers made so far show an obvious attempt to tip the balance of interests in favour of the American side," Sergeyev said.

U.S. embassy officials were not immediately available for comment.

lunarchick - 11:44pm Mar 25, 2001 EST (#1507 of 1509)

Interesting that the USA owes rent. Isn't this the country that doesn't pay it's dues to the United Nations (NY).

lunarchick - 11:48pm Mar 25, 2001 EST (#1508 of 1509)

What does one to make of this:

Bush jokes about cloning Vice President

Last updated: 25 Mar 2001 08:10 GMT+00:00 (Reuters)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush capped an annual dinner with Washington's top journalists by joking that he was trying to clone Vice President Dick Cheney so he could take the next four years off.

Clad in a white tie and stylish tuxedo, Bush engaged in a round of self-deprecating humour at the 116th annual Gridiron Club dinner, telling veteran Washington writers he feared his staff was picking up on jokes about his lack of intelligence.

Every morning, he quipped, the first item on his schedule was an "intelligence briefing."

The president said Democratic power broker Robert Strauss had given him some valuable advice on that score -- "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones you need to concentrate on."

But Bush insisted he was no dummy and said he had, in fact, just completed mapping the human genome.

"My goal is to clone another Dick Cheney, that way I won't have to do anything," he told the journalists, who host the dinner each year to "singe but not burn" the president and his cabinet with a series of skits and songs.

Acknowledging his tendency to mangle the English language in his speeches, the president said: "You know that foot and mouth disease rampant in Europe? I've got it."

lunarchick - 12:21am Mar 26, 2001 EST (#1509 of 1509)


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