Pentagon Confirms Russians
Flew 'Several Hundred Feet'
Over Kitty Hawk

MOSCOW - Top US general Henry H. Shelton delivered a stern rebuke to Russia Tuesday for staging Soviet-style war games, warning that such Cold War mentality was souring relations between the former foes.
US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Henry H. Shelton, who flew into Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart General Anatoly Kvashnin, told him that Washington's patience was running out, US military sources told AFP.
Last month, Russian military leaders boasted that warplanes had buzzed the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, taking its crew by surprise.
The Pentagon confirmed that Russian fighters had flown several hundred feet directly over the Kitty Hawk October 17 in the Sea of Japan, taking photographs of the deck that were later e-mailed by the Russians to the vessel.
Russia also deployed five strategic Bear bombers in November to bases in the Far East, in what the Pentagon claimed was preparation for training runs to probe US air defenses around Alaska.
Shelton told reporters after the talks that he and Kvashnin had "discussed the rhetoric that can sometimes accompany such incidents.
"We do not need to have this type of rhetoric associated with our operations and operational exercises," he added.
Despite the sharp warning, both sides were at pains to downplay any fundamental rift in their military relations, which soured during the NATO war against Yugoslavia last year.
The two generals signed an agreement confirming contacts and exchanges this year between the US and Russian militaries.
And although Russian military sources had indicated the two generals would address prickly issues including Moscow's intention to resume arms sales to Iran and a planned US missile shield, officially neither were on the agenda.
"From the US perspective, the NMD (national missile defence system) is a political issue and one that will be dealt with by the US administration at the political level," Shelton said.
Referring to Iran, he added: "It's an area of concern for us because we see that it could destabilise the region but we hope that this will be sorted out at political levels."
Kvashnin also insisted: "We didn't discuss the political issue but I don't think there will be any problems and we'll work in accordance with international agreements."
Last week, the Russian army's second-in-command dismissed as "unacceptable" US threats to slap economic sanctions against Russia should it resume military cooperation with Iran in violation of a secret 1995 agreement.
Moscow announced last month it was scrapping a five-year-old agreement with Washington ending conventional arms sales to Iran, a decision that prompted a White House warning that trade ties could suffer as a result.
Washington for its part wants to amend the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, the cornerstone of Cold War nuclear deterrence, so it can forge ahead with plans to defend itself against attacks from hostile states like Iran, Iraq and North Korea.
Moscow insists the 1972 ABM treaty is the lynchpin of international disarmament efforts, and has flatly refused to renegotiate the document.
Kvashnin reiterated this stance, but repeated an offer made by Russian President Vladimir Putin to slash the number of each country's nuclear warheads to less than 1,500.
Cash-strapped Russia finds it costly to maintain its ageing nuclear arsenal and could compromise over the ABM treaty in return for a radical nuclear arms reduction treaty.

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