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Russia Wants Deeper Cuts in Numbers of Nuclear Warheads

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev says that Russia is willing to cut its nuclear arsenal if the United States will ease Moscow's concerns about the proposed United States missile defense system in Europe.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev says that Moscow would go lower than the nuclear warheads limits being envisaged in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty Russia is now re-negotiating with the United States.

President Medvedev spoke Saturday in Amsterdam after meeting with the prime minister of the Netherlands. The Russian president says his country insists on reaching and finding an effective and controllable agreement on reducing the number of nuclear weapons held by the United States and Russia. He also said Russia is ready to reduce its nuclear arsenal below levels set by the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Under that treaty, both the U.S. and Russia agreed to cut their arsenals to betweeen 1,722 and 2,200 warheads by 2012. That treaty expires in December.

However, Mr. Medvedev says, Moscow can't make that happen unless the United States is transparent about its plans for a missile defense system being planed for Europe. He said everything is grounded on US missiles planned for Europe. He said Russia does not agree with American plans to create a global missile defense system. And he said Russia will only reduce its nulcear arsenal if the US eases Moscow's concerns.

Renegotiating the current "Start Treaty" is expected to be one of the main topics of discusssion when U.S. President Barack Obama makes his first trip to Russia (as president) next month. Mr. Obama has made an agreement on nuclear weapons reductions a central element in his plans to improve relations between the U.S. and Russia which sharply deteriorated during the Russian military invasion of part of Georgia last year.

Both countries are set to hold a third round of talks in Geneva next week on finding a successor to the current Start Treaty.