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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

U.S. Secretary of State to focus on Iran, arms reduction in Moscow

RIA Novosti

04:35 13/10/2009 MOSCOW, October 13 (RIA Novosti) - U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is expected to prioritize Iran's controversial nuclear program and the replacement of the current arms reduction treaty during her talks with the Russian leadership in Moscow.

Clinton, who arrived late on Monday for a two-day official visit to Russia, is scheduled to meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in Russia

Prior to the visit, the Western media speculated that Clinton would seek Russia's broader support of the international efforts to force Iran to fold its uranium enrichment program.

Iran has been in the center of a protracted international dispute over its nuclear program. It has the right to the full nuclear fuel cycle if used for civilian purposes, but Western nations fear the program could lead to the production of weapons-grade material.

Tehran is under three sets of UN Security Council sanctions over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment that could be used both for electricity generation and weapons production. Iran insists its nuclear program is aimed at generating peaceful civilian energy.

Russia, which has traditionally supported Iran in the long-running dispute over its nuclear program, has recently voiced concern over Iran's second enrichment site, and urged the country to provide reassurances over its nuclear program.

President Dmitry Medvedev said in a statement circulated at a G20 economic summit in Pittsburgh that the fact that Iran has been building a uranium facility for several years without informing the UN nuclear watchdog is a "source of serious concern."

In addition, Moscow has criticized the recent ballistic missile tests conducted by Iran during a series of military drills.

Clinton and her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov are also expected to discuss a new treaty on strategic offensive armaments, to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-1), which expires on December 5.

President Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed in July in Moscow on the outline of a deal to replace the START-1 treaty, including cutting their countries' nuclear arsenals to 1,500-1,675 operational warheads and delivery vehicles to 500-1,000.

The START-1 treaty obliges Russia and the U.S. to reduce nuclear warheads to 6,000 and their delivery vehicles to 1,600 each. In 2002, a follow-up agreement on strategic offensive arms reduction was concluded in Moscow. The document, known as the Moscow Treaty, envisioned cuts to 1,700-2,200 warheads by December 2012.

Moscow and Washington have been involved in a series of closed-doors talks to prepare a new arms reduction deal until December. Both sides expressed hope that the new agreement would be signed before the expiration of the current treaty.

Russia is the last leg of Clinton's current European tour. She stopped in Switzerland, Ireland and Britain prior to her first visit to Russia as the top U.S. diplomat.

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