Putin tells army it must change
MOSCOW, Russia -- Russian President Vladimir Putin says it is "unlikely" Osama bin Laden has nuclear weapons despite the prime September 11 suspect reportedly claiming he does.
Putin also denied that Russia, or any former Soviet state, would have handed over nuclear materials to bin Laden.
The president was speaking at an annual meeting of his army commanders on Monday before flying to Washington for his first official meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush.
He also told the military that a restructure of the Russian armed forces would take place to take account of the terror threat.
Servicemen's pay would be increased, he added, housing would be improved and more transparency would exist in the military.
These changes are in addition to a raft of military hardware reforms already passed by his Cabinet
Bin Laden, the Saudi dissident blamed by the U.S. for the attacks on New York and Washington, is reported to have claimed in an English-speaking Pakistan newspaper that he had access to nuclear weapons.
Putin said this was unlikely, but warned that the threat "must not be ignored," given bin Laden's links to radical circles in Pakistan, a nuclear power.
"Terrorism is threatening the whole system of strategic stability," Putin was quoted by ITAR-Tass news agency as saying.
"We must know that the goal of terrorists is to get access to weapons of mass destruction."
Putin, who has offered backing to the U.S.' war on terror, added that the international community must co-operate to defeat terrorists.
"This calls for adjusting the priorities of defence policy," Putin said.
Moscow has been saying for months that the "international terrorism" it combats in its rebel Chechnya province is a greater threat than missiles from so-called "rogue states."
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