US and Russia to hold nuclear talks

Presidents say they will meet in Moscow to discuss reducing weapons stockpile.

    Obama and Medvedev said that they were "committed" to a nuclear-free world [AFP]

    It was stated that a new arms treaty would aim to reduce the stockpile of warheads below a figure agreed in Moscow in 2002.

    December deadline

    The two sides have agreed to reach a deal before their existing bilateral treaty - the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start) - expires in December.

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    Russian military plans loom over talks with the US

    Contention was said to remain between the two countries concerning the deployment of a US missile defence shield in Europe, but the statement said that offensive and defensive weapons were to be discussed with the potential for working together.

    The US has signed deals with Poland and the Czech Republic to put missiles and radar equipment on their territories, they said to mitigate threats from rogue states such as Iran.

    But Russia said that the shield was unnecessary and that they would react militarily if it was completed.

    Tensions over last year's conflict in Georgia - where the US and Russia backed opposing sides - were also reported but both nations said that they were committed to a settlement in the region.

    'Great progress'

    Obama said that they two nations were making "great progress" while Medvedev stated that the talks will lay the groundwork for progress on other issues between the two nations.

    Those include Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the two nations said that they would work in co-operation against the common threat of al-Qaeda and "other terrorist groups", as well as trying to stem the drugs trade. 

    Concern was also conveyed over a planned rocket launch by North Korea, which is the US believes is a long-range missile test, as well as Iran's nuclear programme.

    The pair urged Tehran to prodice confidence boosting measures for the rest of the world that their nuclear programme was peaceful.

    Stalled treaty

    Neave Barker, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Moscow, said that the nuclear treaty itself had been "one of the main sticking points" between Russia and the previous US government.

    "[It is] an agreement that was virtually stalled under the previous Bush Administration who basically frustrated the idea of there would be smooth relations between America and Russia," Barker said.

    "All offensive weapons in Russia and the United States are now up for review. Both countries said that they would significantly reduce their numbers."

    Barker said that the two presidents and their supposed reformist outlook had cultivated a lot of optimism among the Russian public concerning relations between the countries.

    He said that Obama's proposed visit has given the Russian public hope for "a new chapter in relations".

    'Start' was originally signed in 1982 and has been updated periodically to the present day.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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