US, Russia hold new round of nuclear arms talks
Geneva (AFP) June 1, 2009
Russia and the United States on Monday began a a second round of talks on renewing a key Cold war-era nuclear arms reduction treaty in a "positive" atmosphere, a diplomat said in Geneva.
A member of the Russian delegation told AFP after the first day of the meeting on the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expires on December 5, that the negotiations were "positive" and "business-like".
A US spokesman declined to comment on the talks behind closed doors at the Russian mission in the western Swiss city of Geneva.
The negotiations move to the US mission on Tuesday and might not continue for a scheduled third day if the negotiators from Washington and Moscow manage to complete their agenda early, a Russian diplomat said.
Officials from both sides expect to reveal few details on the substance of their talks, which set the scene for a US-Russian summit on July 6 to 8.
First results from the START negotiations, which began in Moscow two weeks ago, are due to be unveiled by presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev when they meet in the Russian capital, a Russian diplomat said.
US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said in Washington: "On the details of the negotiation, I think we prefer to keep that in private right now. I think that's just the best way to conduct these kinds of negotiations."
START, signed in 1991 just before the break-up of the Soviet Union, which bound both sides to deep cuts in their nuclear arsenals, is due to expire on December 5.
The agreement this year to seek its renewal marked the first tangible step in the thaw in US-Russian relations heralded by the Obama administration.
But, on top of the complex technical issues involved in the landmark disarmament treaty, the negotiations are dogged by bargaining over US plans for an anti-missile defence shield partly stationed in Europe, a project which has angered Russia.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton handed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a mock 'reset' button in Geneva when they met for the first time in March and hatched the work plan to renew START.
But Lavrov last month also reiterated Moscow's desire to take account of the situation surrounding the planned US anti-missile shield in Europe in the START talks.
US officials said that they "intend to discuss the full range of issues around missile defence but not in the context of the START talks."
Obama has ordered a review of planned extensions into Europe of the defence shield, which the United States has insisted is meant to counter an Iranian threat.
But Russia regards the shield, which would partly be based in former eastern bloc countries close to its borders, as a threat to its own security.
"The sides are not in the same position. Obama needs a result to demonstrate that the 'reset' of US-Russian relations is getting somewhere," said Evgeny Volk of the US-based Heritage Foundation.
Veteran disarmament expert Jozef Goldblat suggested an elegant way out: a five-year extension of START that would give time for negotiations on a "broader" disarmament deal between the world's biggest nuclear powers.
But the talks underway now could also allow Washington to generate a climate "propitious" for help on other issues where it needs Moscow's support, such as Iran and North Korea's controversial nuclear programmes, said Goldblat who is based at the Geneva International Peace Research institute.
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Jerusalem (AFP) May 31, 2009
Israel began its largest-ever exercise on Sunday to test the response of emergency services to a "doomsday" mix of missile attacks, suicide bombings and natural disasters. The five-day exercise will simulate simultaneous rocket strikes from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon and missile attacks from arch-foes Syria and Iran. "The mere fact that Israel is preparing with such an exercise improves ... read more
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