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Russia's Lavrov visits U.S. to prepare for Obama-Medvedev summit

RIA Novosti

06/05/2009 11:30 WASHINGTON/NEW YORK, May 6 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's foreign minister embarks on a U.S. visit on Wednesday to prepare for a bilateral summit due in July as part of the two countries' pledges to rebuild ties.

Sergei Lavrov will meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington on Thursday, their second meeting since they symbolically pressed a "reset" button in Geneva in March to improve relations that plunged to a Cold War low under the George Bush administration.

In Washington, Lavrov will also meet with senior members of Congress and deliver a speech on Russia-U.S. relations at the Carnegie Center, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko.

"We expect substantial discussions at meetings with the leadership of the State Department, Congress and the expert community on current Russian-American relations and the problems that await resolution to ensure their sustainable development," Nesterenko said last week.

Arms control will dominate Lavrov's visit to the United States, as the two countries have pledged to draft a new arms reduction treaty to replace the Cold War-era START 1 treaty that expires in December.

The first round of "full-format" talks on the new treaty are due to take place in Moscow on May 18, with the aim of providing an outline for the pact before Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama meet in July.

Lavrov's visit could be overshadowed, however, by fresh tensions in Georgia. The former Soviet republic on Tuesday accused Russia of orchestrating a failed revolt at a military base. Moscow dismissed the charges as "insane."

Russia's war with Georgia over pro-Russian South Ossetia last August and the subsequent recognition of the breakaway region by Moscow fueled tensions with the United States and other Western powers.

Moscow's relations with NATO were also strained over the expulsion last week of two Russian diplomats by the alliance. Lavrov in response said he would not attend a NATO-Russia Council meeting later this month. The move came after Moscow and the alliance resolved to resume ties suspended following the war with Georgia.

On Monday, Lavrov will preside over a UN Security Council session on Middle East conflicts. Russia is the council president in May.

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