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Clinton in Moscow for talks on arms treaty, Middle East


MOSCOW (AFP): US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Russia for crucial talks on clinching a new nuclear disarmament treaty between the Cold War foes and smoothing tensions in the Middle East.

The 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) expired in December and negotiators have failed to agree a successor -- to the embarrassment of two powers keen to promote a "reset" in sometimes troubled relations.

Clinton, who arrived on Thursday morning, want to give a fresh push to the talks in her meetings with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and President Dmitry Medvedev amid reports the process has been hit by policy disputes.

The official reason for Clinton's two-day visit is a meeting of the Middle East diplomatic quartet, a gathering that has grown in importance after Israel announced the construction of 1,600 new settler homes in annexed East Jerusalem.

Clinton and Lavrov will meet with the other representatives of the quartet, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for dinner, ahead of longer talks on Friday.

The Israeli announcement led the Palestinians to call for a halt to peace talks and precipitated the worst crisis in US-Israeli relations in years, with senior US officials warning the plans jeopardized the peace process.

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