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US And Russia Begin Nuclear Reduction Talks

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by P. Parameswaran
Washington (AFP) Jul 03, 2007
The United States and Russia on Tuesday pushed for peaceful nuclear energy use and said they had begun talks to trim their nuclear arsenals "to the lowest possible level" ahead of the expiry of a landmark strategic weapons agreement. The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which led to the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive weapons under the largest arms control accord in history, expires in 2009.

"The United States and Russia reiterate their intention to carry out strategic offensive reductions to the lowest possible level consistent with their national security requirements and alliance commitments," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov said in a joint statement issued in Washington Tuesday.

"To this end, ministers discussed development of a post-START arrangement to provide continuity and predictability regarding strategic offensive forces," they said, a day after US President George W. Bush and Russian leader Vladimir Putin held summit talks.

Rice and Lavrov had met on the sidelines of the summit at the US leader's parents' vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine.

On the instructions of their leaders, Rice and Lavrov said Moscow and Washington would continue these discussions "with a view toward early results" on the reduction of their nuclear arsenals.

Bush and Putin in May 2002 signed the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions, limiting the two powers to a strategic nuclear arsenal of 1,700 to 2,200 operationally deployed warheads each. It expires in 2012.

There are no immediate targets that have been set under the nuclear talks for any new agreement replacing START, officials said.

"Well, I think it would be too early to announce any numbers because we haven't agreed to them," Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Kislyak told reporters in Washington, saying START may have outlived its objectives.

"It doesn't mean that we necessarily need to continue the treaty as it stands today, because a lot of things that are provided for in the treaty has been already completed," he said.

He expected "progress, at least in basic understanding, somewhere in the months to come."

Rice and Lavrov also emphasized "the importance of confidence-building and transparency, and continuing the dialogue," said US special envoy for nuclear nonproliferation Robert Joseph.

In a joint declaration Tuesday, Bush and Putin said they were determined to play an "active" role in pushing for the peaceful use of nuclear energy, in particular among developing countries, "provided the common goal of prevention of proliferation of nuclear weapons is achieved.

"To this end, we intend, together with others, to initiate a new format for enhanced cooperation," they said, citing a bilateral agreement signed on the sidelines of the summit by Rice and Lavrov for cooperation in the field of peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Amid concerns over Iran's defiance in pursuing sensitive nuclear activities, Bush and Putin said any expansion of nuclear energy "should be conducted in a way that strengthens the nuclear nonproliferation regime."

Bush had said after the talks with Putin on Monday that the Russian leader agreed on the need to send a "common message" to Iran over its disputed nuclear program.

He did not mention whether he had won Putin over to the prospect of tougher international sanctions against Iran for its refusal to suspend its nuclear activities despite international pressure.

Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but the United States and several other powers suspect it wants to develop a nuclear weapon.

Lavrov also said that a nuclear reactor plant Russia was constructing in Iran could not be completed in two months as expected by Tehran, citing "technical and economic questions."

The Iranian time frame for the Bushehr plant is "too ambitious," he said.

Iranian officials have previously accused Russia of being half-hearted in finishing the project at a time when the United States is pushing for more sanctions over Tehran's nuclear program.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Russia Warns NATO Over European Security As Topol Nuke Production Ramps Up
Moscow (AFP) June 26, 2007
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