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    Kremlin says Russia, U.S. near setting date to sign new START pact

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    The Russian and U.S. presidents discussed on Saturday the negotiations on a new strategic arms reductions treaty and said it was possible to talk about a date for the deal to be signed

    The Russian and U.S. presidents discussed on Saturday the negotiations on a new strategic arms reductions treaty and said it was possible to talk about a date for the deal to be signed, the Kremlin said.

    "The heads of state have, by an already established tradition, held a regular exchange of views on the situation in the final stages of preparation of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). Both sides expressed satisfaction with the high level of agreement in the major provisions of the draft treaty. It was underlined that it is now possible to talk about specific dates for the submission of the draft START treaty for signing by the heads of state," the Kremlin press service said in a statement.

    It added that presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama agreed during their telephone conversation to give additional instructions to the negotiating teams and discussed plans for bilateral contacts in the near future.

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due in Moscow on Thursday and is expected to discuss the arms reduction pact with her Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

    Lavrov and Clinton will attend Friday's meeting of the Quartet of international mediators in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

    Russia and the United States have been negotiating a replacement to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty since Medvedev and Obama 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.

    Lavrov has repeatedly made statements suggesting that a new nuclear arms cuts deal should be linked to Washington's missile plans in Eastern Europe.

    Many experts believe, however, that the Russian demand will probably not be satisfied as the U.S. Senate is unlikely to ratify 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 13 (RIA Novosti)

     

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