The United States and the Soviet Union agreed to delay their planned February Moscow summit because of the gulf war and unresolved problems with a strategic arms reduction treaty.
The postponement "until later in the first half of this year" was announced at the White House by Secretary of State James Baker and Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Bessmyrtnykh after a one-hour meeting with President Bush.Monday's announcement, read in Russian and English, said, "By mutual agreement, Presidents Gorbachev and Bush will be rescheduling their summit in Moscow originally planned for February for a later date in the first half of this year.
"The gulf war makes it inappropriate for President Bush to be away from Washington. In addition, work on a Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty will require some additional time. Both presidents look forward to setting an exact summit date as soon as it becomes feasible to do so."
Bush had also been scheduled to go to Greece and Turkey on the same trip and those side trips will also be put off.
Asked if the tensions between the central Soviet government and the Baltic states were an element in the postponenment, Baker said, "The statement speaks for itself."
He said he and the Soviet foreign minister spent five hours discussing the situation in the Baltics at sessions that they held Saturday and earlier Monday. They are scheduled to hold a final set of talks Tuesday.
Baker said that the problems with the START treaty are basically the ones that the two sides have been wrestling with since September when he and Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze met in Houston.
Those problems are basically technical, including operating rules for monitoring sites around missile production factories and a full exchange of data on the present number of weapons held by both sides and their location.
According to administration officials, the Soviet military has resisted decisions by the Soviet political leadership to turn over their most closely guarded nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union's principal adversary during the Cold War.
White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said the gulf war is "the principal factor" in the suggested delay. Baker said that if the war is not finished by the end of June, "then obviously there would be another postponement."
Fitzwater said, "This is not a declaration of when the war would end. Nobody knows when that will be."
"Our main concern is just the gulf conflict," Fitzwater said in explaining Bush's desire to put off the summit. He said Bush wanted to explain to Bessmertnykh "the difficulties that we might have in time away from home."
On his arrival Friday, Bessmert-nykh, who recently served as the Soviet ambassador to Washington, added to the signs of friction in U.S.-Soviet relations by expressing concern over the "scale of U.S. bombing of Baghdad and damage to the civilian economy" of Iraq.
Meanwhile, Richard R. Burt, the chief U.S. strategic weapons negotiator and a former ambassador to West Germany, will step down in March to become a private consultant, the State Department announced Monday.
However, Burt will return to Geneva soon to keep working on an unfinished treaty to cut U.S. and Soviet long-range nuclear missiles, bombers and submarines by about 30 percent overall.
Officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said it was a personal decision after 10 years' service in government. Burt was not resigning out of frustration that the treaty is still unfinished or because of any friction with his colleagues, the officials told The Associated Press.