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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russia hopes Obama administration will listen in START talks

RIA Novosti

25/12/2008 16:32 MOSCOW, December 25 (RIA Novosti) - Russia hopes the new U.S. administration will be more ready to listen to Russia's position regarding a replacement for a strategic weapons treaty, a deputy Russian foreign minister said Thursday.

"We hope very much that the next administration will have more of a desire and readiness to accept our case in this area," Sergei Ryabkov told a press conference in Moscow.

The Strategic Arms Reduction (START-1) Treaty signed between the Soviet Union and the United States in 1991 expires on December 5, 2009.

It places a limit of 6,000 strategic or long-range nuclear warheads on each side, and limits the number of delivery vehicles, such as bombers, land-based and submarine-based missiles, to 1,600 each.

Ryabkov said Russia was not imposing any preliminary conditions on missile defense in talks with the United States.

"Our position is based strictly on an objective and clear assessment of the situation," the diplomat said.

Russia has repeatedly stated that the signing of a new nuclear disarmament deal will only be possible if Washington abandons its plans to place elements of a U.S. missile shield in Central Europe.

Washington plans to deploy a missile defense system comprising 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic. The U.S. says it needs the shield to deter strikes from "rogue states." Russia insists it would threaten its national security and harm the balance of European security.

After Barack Obama's election victory in November, one of his foreign policy advisers said the president-elect was not committed to the missile shield, and would only continue with the project if its effectiveness was proven.

Moscow also insists that any agreement replacing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty should be a legally binding document and must set lower ceilings not only for the number of nuclear warheads, but also for their delivery vehicles.

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