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Russia, U.S. fail to agree on key issues at defense talks

RIA Novosti

12/10/2007 18:35 MOSCOW, October 12 (RIA Novosti) - The U.S. and Russia failed to resolve a missile defense dispute at Friday's talks in Moscow between the countries' foreign and defense ministers, but agreed to resume negotiations in Washington next April.

U.S. State Secretary Condoleezza Rice said talks in the "two-plus-two" format had failed to overcome differences on U.S. plans to deploy missile defense elements in Central Europe and Russian proposals to extend the START-1 arms reduction treaty, but a decision was made to continue discussions at the level of experts.

Rice said that at the talks, she and Defense Secretary Robert Gates had tried to respond to Russia's concerns on the missile shield, and were willing to continue efforts to allay its concerns.

Earlier in the day, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted tense talks with Rice and Gates at his country residence near Moscow on defense issues.

Moscow strongly opposes U.S. plans to deploy elements of its missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, considering them a threat to its national security. Washington has insisted the European missile shield is intended to stave off the threat of missile attack from "rogue states" such as Iran or North Korea.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the U.S. side offered an alternative to its missile defense plans in a bid to allay Russia's concerns, and said Moscow would study it. "Today our American counterparts presented their return proposal, aimed at finding a solution to the dispute," he said.

Lavrov said the two countries would continue their consultations on missile defense in Europe in the format of foreign and defense ministers in six months in Washington.

"We have agreed that this format will deal with practical implementation of the initiatives, which our countries jointly promote and implement on the international arena for the sake of strategic stability," he said.

The foreign minister said Russia had again urged the U.S. to freeze its plans to deploy missile defense elements in Poland and the Czech Republic.

He said the Russia and the U.S. have agreed to draw up criteria to determine what should be classed as a missile threat. "If we manage to work out the criteria, it will become clear that the Third Site is not needed in the way that it was planned."

On the controversial issue of the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, aimed at limiting arms from the Atlantic to the Urals, Lavrov said Russia considers U.S. proposals on salvaging the pact to be inadequate.

"We put forward this summer our proposals on saving this treaty, suggesting how we could make it viable... Our American colleagues gave us their proposals during the Moscow talks. We have voiced our opinion - it is a step in the right direction, but we consider it to be insufficient," the minister said, without specifying the nature of the U.S. proposals.

President Vladimir Putin declared in July a moratorium on the CFE Treaty, which limits Russian and NATO conventional forces and heavy weaponry in Europe. No NATO countries have ratified the treaty's amended version, and the Russian moratorium is to come into force later this year if Western countries do not ratify the document.

Moscow considers the original CFE Treaty, signed in 1990 by 30 countries to reduce conventional military forces on the continent, to be outdated since it does not reflect the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the breakup of the Soviet Union, or recent NATO expansion.

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