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Russian Foreign Minister to Meet Obama at White House

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (file photo)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (file photo)

Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, goes to the White House on Wednesday for talks with President Barack Obama.

Some of the topics in Wednesday's Oval Office meeting were previewed when the White House issued a statement on Monday confirming a telephone conversation Mr. Obama had with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

According to the statement, Mr. Obama thanked the Russian leader for Moscow's efforts at mediation in Libya, saying the U.S. is "prepared to support negotiations that lead to a democratic transition" in Libya, as long as Libyan leader Colonel Moammar Gadhafi steps aside.

But while the situation in Libya will be on the list, the talks between the president and Foreign Minister Lavrov, who is in town for three days, may be dominated by Russian concerns about the U.S. missile defense shield for Europe.

The Associated Press quoted Lavrov as saying at a Russian Embassy event on Tuesday that the missile defense issue remains the biggest irritant in relations, and repeating Moscow's concerns that U.S. plans could undermine Russia's security.

Russia has long opposed the U.S. plan for a missile defense shield in Europe. Moscow's concerns continued after the Obama administration adopted its new "phased adaptive approach" involving sea and land-based missile interceptors and radar systems to defend against potential attacks from such countries as Iran.

Daryl Kimball, head of the Arms Control Association, a private research firm, says Moscow worries that US missiles could counter some of Russia's offensive ballistic missiles, especially those deployed in the West of Russia.

"Russia's worries are grossly exaggerated, even if some U.S. ballistic missile interceptors deployed in the year 2020 could shoot down a couple dozen Russian nuclear-armed ballistic missiles - that would not negate Russia's nuclear deterrent capability, which consists of hundreds of nuclear-armed ballistic missiles," Kimball said.

Other topics in Wednesday's Oval Office talks are likely to be Russia's pending accession to the World Trade Organization, along with Afghanistan and Sudan.

Lavrov also participated in a meeting of the "Quartet" diplomatic group on the Middle East, which includes Russia, the U.S., the United Nations and European Union. At the State Department, he and Secretary Clinton are to sign an agreement on child adoptions.

In recent weeks, President Obama's spokesman Jay Carney has been asked several times whether the president is planning a visit to Moscow before the end of this year, as some Russian media outlets continue to report.

Carney has said only that the White House still has no scheduling announcements to make on any potential presidential visit to Russia.