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US-Russia talks on nuclear reduction begin

Published 25 April 2009

By Marta Falconi, Associated Press Writer, AP

ROME, Fri Apr 24, 2009 – U.S. and Russian negotiators emerged optimistic Friday after talks aimed at creating a
new treaty to reduce their nuclear weapon
stockpiles. The goal is to replace the 1991 Strategic
Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, before it expires
in December. The deal capped the number of
warheads and reduced ways of delivering them.

Both sides have said they are ready for further cuts.
Friday’s one-day meeting focused on procedural issues, setting the agenda for further discussions.

More meetings will take place in Washington and Moscow in the next two months ahead of President Barack Obama’s first visit to Russia in July.

The new treaty is considered the first step in the no-nuclear agenda embraced by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in a joint April 1 declaration.

"We expect on the basis of this very productive meeting today that we will have a good report for them in July," said Rose Gottemoeller, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance.

The two sides hope to meet the deadline for a new treaty, said Anatoly Antonov, chief of security and disarmament issues at the Russian Foreign Ministry.

"I hope we are capable of preparing a new draft by the end of the year, or at least do our utmost," he told reporters at a joint news conference with Gottemoeller at the U.S. Embassy in Rome.

The two administrations also have made the agreement the centerpiece of efforts to revive strained U.S.-Russian ties. "We are sure that this new treaty will help improve relations between the United States and the Russian Federation," Antonov said.

The United States has 2,200 strategic nuclear warheads deployed; Russia has 2,800.

The two sides agreed to further warhead cuts in 2002, and Russian and American arms control experts believe that the START replacement treaty would seek to cut arsenals to 1,500 on each side.

A new treaty would not only boost bilateral relations, but would also help efforts by the United States and the international community to stop rogue nuclear programs by countries like Iran and North Korea, said Giuseppe Anzera, an international relations professor at Rome’s La Sapienza university.

"When the United States and Russia take such a position in favor of nonproliferation, they have much more weight in dealing with those countries who are trying to develop nuclear weapon programs," he said.

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AP writer Ariel David contributed to this report in Rome.