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Russia, U.S. make progress on arms cuts treaty - Foreign Ministry

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Russia and the United States made considerable headway last month on a new strategic arms reductions pact, and talks will continue March 9, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday.

Russia and the United States made considerable headway last month on a new strategic arms reductions pact, and talks will continue March 9, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday.

The Russian ministry said the latest round of talks in Geneva, which ended on February 27, saw the sides "considerably move forward in coordinating the remaining issues on a set of documents that will form the package of the new agreement."

"The sides agreed to continue official talks from March 9 in Geneva," the ministry said.

Russia and the United States have been negotiating a replacement to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty since the two countries' presidents met in April last year, but finalizing a document has dragged on, with U.S. plans for missile defense in Europe a particular sticking point. START 1, the cornerstone of post-Cold War arms control, expired on December 5.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that Moscow expects a new nuclear arms cuts deal to be linked to missile defenses, adding that President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. counterpart Barack Obama reaffirmed this linkage during telephone talks on Wednesday.

Senior Russian lawmaker Konstantin Kosachyov said last Wednesday that parliament was unlikely to ratify any treaty that did not include a link to Washington's plans to deploy missile shield elements in Europe.

He admitted, however, that the Russian demand would probably not be included in the new pact as the U.S. Senate would not approve any document containing a formal linkage between the arms cuts and the missile shield.

Obama scrapped plans last year for interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic pursued by his predecessor as protection against possible Iranian strikes in an apparent move to ease Russian security concerns.

In February, however, Romania and Bulgaria said they were in talks with the Obama administration on deploying elements of the U.S. missile shield on their territories from 2015, triggering an angry reaction from Moscow.

MOSCOW, March 1 (RIA Novosti)

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