Russia Rebuffs U.S. Call for New Arms Talks

Russia said Monday it was premature to set the date for a new round of nuclear disarmament talks on the short-range missiles whose reduction is sought by the United States.

U.S. President Barack Obama's administration is keen to launch talks over so-called tactical weapons that have remained uncovered by previous nuclear disarmament agreements with Russia.

The U.S. administration made the goal public after Russia this year ratified a new START treaty that covers long-range missiles.

The number of tactical weapons each side has remains a secret but military experts estimate Russia has about 1,500 more missiles than the United States.

A top Russian foreign ministry official said Monday that Moscow was aware of Washington's desire to start a new round of tactical missile talks.

But he said such negotiations could only start once the United States is ready to reconsider its position on a new missile defense shield for Europe and its desire to place weapons in space.

"We have taken note of the U.S. president's position, which seeks to put a timeframe on the start of tactical nuclear missile negotiations," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.

"But we should put the emphasis on the word 'seeks'," the Russian official said

"We are not avoiding these talks. But talks about tactical nuclear missiles are impossible without a set of other issues: a disbalance of conventional forces, missile defense, and the deployment of arms in space," he said.

"Will these issues be put to a review? I do not have the answer to this key question at this point," Ryabkov said.

The diplomat's comments came two days after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov exchanged ratification documents in Munich formally bringing the new START treaty into force.

Clinton said Saturday that she would use the occasion to discuss "further arms control issues" with Lavrov -- including on the two countries' stocks of short- and medium-range missiles and non-deployed nuclear weapons.

Source: Agence France Presse

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