Russia to be invited to join space station work

December 07, 1993|By New York Times News Service

The foreign partners in the old plan for the space station -- Europe, Japan and Canada -- agreed yesterday to formally invite Russia to join work on the revamped outpost, overcoming a major potential obstacle for the East-West endeavor and bringing it one step closer to fruition. The invitation is to be delivered in the next few days.

"A major hurdle has been overcome," said a Clinton administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "The governments of the international partners are all now agreed to bring in Russia. There was a time when we weren't so sure."

The partners met yesterday at the State Department in Washington and gave their approval. When the Clinton administration first announced its intention to bring Moscow into the project, many of the partners expressed shock, bewilderment or tepid support. But as the plan has progressed, initial skepticism seems to have given way to an appreciation of potential advantages.

"The governmental representatives who were there, including the French, Germans, Canadians and Japanese, all made strong opening statements about positive factors Russia can bring," said the official. The foreign approval comes on the heels of the White House victory in winning important backing from Congress for the plan last week. Together, the two actions sharply increase the chances of success for the proposed East-West station project, which will be managed in the West by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Vice President Al Gore is to travel to Moscow Dec. 14 to 17 to work out details of the plan with Viktor S. Chernomyrdin, Russia's prime minister. On Sept. 2 in Washington, the two agreed to try to merge the hearts of the manned space programs of the two countries in a joint outpost.

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