Russia and the United States are steps closer to ending their dispute over Washington's missile defense plans, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Monday.

"There has been a certain progress and rapprochement," in talks between Russian and U.S. officials on missile defense, Ivanov told reporters, according to the Interfax news agency.

The two nations have been deliberating on the United States' interest in building a missile defense shield in violation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed by the two nations.

The United States has tried to convince Russia that the ABM treaty is outdated and could be amended or could be scrapped for a new plan. Washington has also suggested that Russia too could benefit from U.S. studies of a missile defense shield.

President Bush will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Nov. 13-15 to discuss the future missile defense shield, which the United States has said it will continue to pursue regardless of the treaty.  But Ivanov sent a signal that his talks with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were positive enough to raise expectations that an agreement may have been reached on the treaty.

Ivanov would not elaborate on the discussions, and Secretary Rumsfeld cast his trip to Russia and four other nations this weekend as a success, saying the Sept. 11 attacks have dramatically shifted many relationships and priorities.