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    Moscow pushes for link between new arms deal with U.S. and missile defense

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    Moscow expects a new nuclear arms reduction treaty between Russia and the United States to be linked to Washington's plans to deploy missile shield elements in Europe, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday.

    Moscow expects a new nuclear arms reduction treaty between Russia and the United States to be linked to Washington's plans to deploy missile shield elements in Europe, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday.

    Lavrov said President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. counterpart Barack Obama reaffirmed this linkage at their telephone talks on Wednesday.

    "Our president and his American counterpart reaffirmed their agreements, and the negotiating teams in Geneva must heed the connection between strategic offensive weapons and defensive armaments," Lavrov said in an interview with satellite channel Russia Today, and state agencies RIA Novosti and Voice of Russia.

    "We expect the American negotiators will set out this connection as it has been agreed on [by the presidents]," Lavrov said.

    A senior Russian lawmaker said on Wednesday that parliament was unlikely to ratify the replacement of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expired on December 5 last year, which does not include a link to missile defenses.

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

    "Our initial idea was to specify the issue in the new arms reduction treaty," he said. "Judging by the current negotiations, it would be quite difficult. Our U.S. partners argue that such details would hamper the document's ratification in the Senate."

    Respected Russian daily Vedomosti said on Thursday citing an unidentified Foreign Ministry official that the linkage to missile defense would be set out in a separate Russian document under which the country could withdraw from the treaty if Washington's further missile shield plans threaten "the balance of strategic forces."

    Moscow and Washington could sign the new treaty in April ahead of an international non-proliferation conference, the official told the paper.

    Medvedev and Obama made replacing START 1, the cornerstone of post-Cold War arms control, a part of their broader efforts to "reset" bilateral ties strained in recent years.

    Obama scrapped plans 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.

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

    MOSCOW, February 25 (RIA Novosti)

     

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