Visiting Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Monday that Russia's war in Chechnya had inflicted "an incredible amount of misery" on civilians, and added: "We believe there is no military solution to the Chechen problem."
She appealed to Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to open a dialogue with Chechen political figures. He responded at a joint news conference that Russia understood fully the concern its offensive had stirred abroad, but insisted "all our counterparts share the necessity to fight most firmly against terrorism."
The open debate after more than three hours of talks underscored the skid in U.S.-Russian relations, marked also by disagreement over a potential U.S. program for space-based weapons that Russia insists would fuel a race in offensive nuclear arms.
Albright's visit is designed to size up acting President Vladimir Putin, to push for an easing of restrictions on anti-missile defenses and to persuade the new leader to change course in Chechnya.
Albright, however, reaffirmed U.S. support for Russia to retain control of Chechnya and said Russia was confronted by "what is clearly a problem of terrorism."
She did not elaborate on her proposal that Russia should pursue a political solution through dialogue.
In a gesture of cooperation despite their differences, Albright and Ivanov signed an agreement to tighten controls on technology used in launching U.S. satellites from Russian space stations.
Also, they worked toward a solution to a territorial dispute between two former Soviet republics, Armenia and Azerbaijan. And Albright noted that both Russian and American troops were on peacekeeping patrol in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo.