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    New arms treaty must exclude weapons in space - Russian general

    Dmitriy Astahov
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    A new strategic arms reduction pact with the United States must prohibit any kinds of offensive weapons in space, Russia's Strategic Missile Forces commander said on Wednesday.

    BALABANOVO (Russia), June 10 (RIA Novosti) - A new strategic arms reduction pact with the United States must prohibit any kinds of offensive weapons in space, Russia's Strategic Missile Forces commander said on Wednesday.

    "Our country is interested in including limitations not only on the number of nuclear warheads, but also on the number of their delivery vehicles in the new arms reduction treaty. We also stand for maintaining the ban on the deployment of strategic weapons, offensive and defensive, outside national borders, the prohibition of any kinds of offensive weapons in space, and a more efficient use of inspection and data exchange mechanisms established in line with the START 1 treaty," Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov said.

    Russia and the United States are currently negotiating a replacement to the Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty (START 1) treaty, which expires in December.

    The treaty obliges Russia and the United States to reduce nuclear warheads to 6,000 and their delivery vehicles to 1,600 each. In 2002, a follow-up agreement on strategic offensive arms reduction was concluded in Moscow. The agreement, known as the Moscow Treaty, envisioned cuts to 1,700-2,200 warheads by December 2012.

    According to a report published by the U.S. State Department in April, as of January 1 Russia had 3,909 nuclear warheads and 814 delivery vehicles, including ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and strategic bombers.

    The same report said the United States had 5,576 warheads and 1,198 delivery vehicles.

    However, the U.S. is currently developing a new national missile defense program that is widely seen as a revival of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) program drawn up in the 1980s, nicknamed 'Star Wars'.

    Under the SDI, ground and space-based forces were to protect the U.S. from a nuclear missile attack.

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed during their London meeting in early April on an immediate start to talks on a new strategic arms reduction treaty.

    The first round of full-format negotiations was held in Moscow on May 19-21, and the sides described it as a success.

    The second round of discussions on a replacement for the START 1 treaty took place on June 1-3 in Geneva.

    Russian presidential spokeswoman Natalya Timakova said on June 2 a new draft strategic arms reduction deal to replace the START 1 treaty may be ready before U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Moscow on July 6-8.

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