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Russia, US begins talk on new nuclear treaty

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and President Obama met in London in April. A file photo

MOSCOW (BNS): Russian and U S officials have begun holding talks on replacement pact for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), which is expiring on December 5 this year.

The meeting will discuss reducing the stockpiles of nuclear weapons between the two countries. The main sticking points are limits on the number of warheads and whether the treaty will cover bombers and missiles. Also on the agenda is Moscow's concern over US missile defence shield plans.

"The key thing is that our two countries seem to have decided that we do want to pursue very intensive negotiations between now and December 2009 to try to achieve a new treaty to replace START when it goes out of force December 5, That is actually a key point of agreement between Moscow and Washington," Russian media quoted U S assistant secretary of state Rose Gottemoeller as saying.

Rose Gottemoeller is participating in the two-day meeting which began Tuesday with Russia's chief negotiator Anatoly Antonov.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier said he hoped the negotiations would be "fruitful" but warned that they would be linked to US plans to build an anti-missile system in central Europe."

"It must reflect the issue of global security, which certainly includes Russia's, and this implies that we must sort out the situation on missile defence," he said.

According to a U S State Department report, both countries are close in the total number of intercontinental ballistic missiles: 550 in the United States and 469 in Russia. However, Russian missiles had more warheads: 2,005, compared with 1,250 in the United States.

The United States is superior in the number of strategic bombers: 216 compared with 77 in Russia. It also has more warheads on these carriers: 4,326 against 1,904.

The current treaty binds Russia and the United States to reduce the number of deployed carriers to no more than 1,600 and the number of warheads to no more than 6,000. Both countries want the new deal to improve on the 2002 Treaty of Moscow, which will cut deployed warheads to between 1,700 and 2,200 on each side by 2012.

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