WASHINGTON - U.S. and Russian officials claimed progress toward a nuclear arms deal yesterday, but the two sides failed again to complete the agreement that the nations' leaders hope to sign at a summit in Moscow in three weeks.
After a session with Russian Foreign Minister Igor S. Ivanov, U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said that some sticking points remain and acknowledged that the deal might not be completed in time for signing at the summit.
Powell said that if the agreement is completed in time, "fine. ... If we are unable to, the work will continue.
"Remaining differences are there," he added, "and we are going to have to spend time and continue discussing them."
Earlier in the day, Ivanov met with President Bush at the White House. The foreign minister was more upbeat than Powell, saying the Russian side believes there is a "very high probability" that the signing will occur May 23 as planned.
The negotiations are being watched closely as a test of the new U.S.-Russian relationship, and many analysts in both countries are confident that some deal - perhaps an incomplete one - will be signed this month.
The key questions are how much ground the stronger United States will cede to get a deal and to what extent the agreement will restrain the two sides in the management of their offensive nuclear arsenals.
Bush declared last year that he intends to reduce the U.S. offensive arsenal from more than 6,000 operationally deployed warheads to between 1,700 and 2,200 in 10 years; he called this a major step away from the old Cold War rivalry.
The Russians, for their part, have said they intend to reduce their deployed inventory to about 1,500 warheads.
But the two have clashed over a U.S. insistence that it keep some warheads in storage, rather than destroying them, to have them available in case of an unexpected new threat.