Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Actually doing something about nuclear terrorism

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The United States and Russia will commit to new talks on reducing their nuclear arsenals when Barack Obama meets President Dmitry Medvedev for the first time next month, the Kremlin said on Saturday.

The two leaders will also sign a document on U.S.-Russian relations in general at a meeting in London, and seek to coordinate policies on Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan, Sergei Prikhodko, an aide to President Dmitry Medvedev, told reporters.

"We will seek to agree on the terms and timeframe for working on an agreement to replace the START treaty so that at our next meeting we can reach our first concrete agreements and conclude all of our work by year's end," Prikhodko said.

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The Obama administration has pledged to "reset" ties with Russia after they reached post-Cold War lows under former President George W. Bush.

"A shared understanding is now taking shape that bilateral relations are getting a second chance that must not be missed. We are confident that London will be an important milestone along that path," Prikhodko said.

Defense issues will take center stage, he said, adding that particular attention will be paid to nuclear non-proliferation. "North Korea and Iran are special issues, particularly in the context of Obama's announced plan to meet with Tehran on political-diplomatic terms."

Prikhodko also pointed to a range of opportunities the U.S. and Russia have for cooperation in Afghanistan, including in the transportation of supplies to the country, its social and economic development, and the training of Afghan troops.

"Expanding cooperation on Afghanistan is a major theme. There is potential for joint action that has not been fully utilized," Prikhodko said.