President Bush offered "new ideas" Friday to the Soviet Union to try to conclude an elusive missile-reduction treaty, but the two sides acknowledged they had much work ahead before the pact could be signed at a summer summit. Secretary of State James Baker said he did not even discuss the timing of the Moscow summit with his Soviet counterpart during three hours of talks, an indication of the amount of ground still to be covered.
Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev postponed the summit in February, partly because the treaty was not ready, and U.S. officials indicated Friday that the presidents' meeting was unlikely before next month.
Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Bessmertnykh said he would promptly convey the undisclosed proposals Bush outlined in a letter to Gorbachev. He said there would be a quick reply from Moscow concerning the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that has been negotiated for nearly a decade.
"The two governments have decided to concentrate very actively on completing the START agreement," Bessmertnykh said.
He said the sticking points were substantive, as well as technical, indicating a serious discrepancy between the two superpowers' position on how to reduce their arsenals of long-range nuclear missiles, bombers and submarines by about 30 percent.
He said that the two sides would upgrade their negotiating teams here and that experts would be added to the discussion of how much information from missile flight tests is to be exchanged.
Asked if he were growing more pessimistic, Bessmertnykh said, "We are not less optimistic at all. I think we are in a more working mode."
Baker said, "There is still a fair amount of work to be done before we can conclude a START treaty."