Rice Backs Bill to Stop Spread of Shoulder-Fired Missiles

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday assured two senators that she supports legislation to curb the spread of shoulder-fired missiles worldwide.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said Rice voiced support for the bill during a 45-minute meeting with him and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Richard Lugar, R-Ind. They are co-sponsors of the measure, which Obama said would go before the Senate for a vote next week.

"We now have the endorsement of the secretary of state and the State Department on the bill," Obama said. "We want to thank her, work through any issues that might be remaining around."

The legislation calls for the United States to provide help to countries seeking to secure, remove or eliminate stocks of the shoulder-fired missiles. It would authorize about $524 million in fiscal 2007 for nonproliferation, anti-terrorism and other activities, and requires the secretary of state to issue a report to Congress on conventional arms-threat reduction within 180 days of becoming law.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack confirmed the meeting with senators and said Rice supports and encourages the curbing of the spread of shoulder-fired missiles, but he said he did not have knowledge of the meeting's details.

"This is a serious issue," he said. "We have a program in many countries around the world where we've actually had a buyback of these."

The State Department estimated last year that about 1 million shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles have been produced worldwide since the 1950s, with "thousands" in the hands of "nonstate actors," such as terrorist groups.