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Lavrov Pushes U.S. To Cut Arms Deeper

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged U.S. officials on Thursday to accept deeper cuts and less intrusive verification measures in a nuclear weapons treaty that the two countries are negotiating.

Lavrov said disagreements over such issues over the past few days had slowed efforts to reach a deal, and he agreed with the White House’s assessment that Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev are not expected to sign a nuclear weapons treaty when they travel to Copenhagen this week.

However, Lavrov also agreed with the White House that the United States and Russia continue to make progress on negotiations for a successor to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, known as START I, and said he hoped an agreement would be reached soon.

In Washington, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday that the United States would continue to negotiate with Russia “until we get it right.”

Lavrov blamed the U.S. delegation for slowing negotiations in the past few days. He said the talks in Geneva have now resumed pace, but a deal is unlikely to be reached in time for Obama and Medvedev to sign it when they attend Friday’s climate summit in Copenhagen on Friday.

Lavrov urged the United States to agree to deeper cuts in the parties’ nuclear arsenals and less intrusive verification and control measures.

“Control measures must be adequate to a new treaty, not the old one,” Lavrov said. “They must be lighter and less expensive.

“It’s time to get rid of excessive suspiciousness, especially as both presidents have said repeatedly they want to see a new level of U.S.-Russian relations based on trust, mutual respect and equality,” he said.

Lavrov said the talks are now moving forward, despite disagreements, and that an agreement could be reached “quite soon.” However, he wouldn’t say when a new arms deal could be signed.

The new deal will succeed the 1991 START, which expired Dec. 5. The 500-page document contained a sprawling web of control measures seen as crucial for both nations to keep a wary eye on each other’s nuclear stockpiles. Russia sees them as too intrusive and has pushed for softening the verification regime.

Obama and Medvedev agreed in July to cut the number of nuclear warheads that each country has to between 1,500 and 1,675 under a new treaty. The two leaders spoke by telephone Saturday to discuss the arms talks.

Lavrov said Russian and U.S. negotiators have reached agreement on many issues related to the new treaty. “It’s important not to go back to what already has been agreed,” he said.

(AP, Reuters)

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