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US, Russia on Brink of Arms Agreement

  • Peter Fedynsky

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States and Russia are on the brink of a new nuclear arms treaty. Speaking in Moscow, she says the positions of both countries also appear to be drawing closer on possible sanctions against Iran.

After a meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev at his residence near the Russian capital, Secretary Clinton said both countries are encouraged by the progress negotiators are making on a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

"Our negotiating teams have reported that they had resolved all of the major issues," said Hillary Clinton. "There are some technical issues that remain. But we are on the brink of signing a new agreement between the United States and Russia."

Foreign Minister Lavrov echoed Clinton's remarks.

He says Mr. Medvedev is pleased how arms negotiators in Geneva are carrying out his directives and those of President Obama. He says Mr. Medvedev noted that Russia is counting on finishing talks on a new offensive strategic arms agreement very soon.

The previous treaty expired in December.

Meanwhile, Minister Lavrov cautioned the government of Iran that it is allowing an opportunity for mutually beneficial dialogue about the nature of its nuclear program with the international community to slip away. He said President Medvedev believes sanctions rarely work, but that Russia does not rule them out to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. He said if implemented, sanctions should be targeted against Iran's leadership, not civilians.

Secretary Clinton said the United States is seeking international approval for sanctions.

"We are asking for action and are working very hard in the U.N. Security Council to obtain a resolution expressing the international community's disapproval of Iranian actions and pulling together the world in a regime of smart sanctions - as President Medvedev has referred to them - that will try to change the behavior of the Iranian leadership," she said.

Lavrov quoted President Medvedev as saying the United States and Russia have been able to successfully reset their relations and to stop the degradation of ties noted before President Obama took office. In a compliment for Secretary Clinton, he said her 36-hour visit in the Russian capital could be called a mid-air refueling.

In a meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Secretary Clinton expressed U.S. support for Russian membership in the World Trade Organization. Mr. Putin said Russian companies working in America and U.S. firms in his country need signals that they are welcome and needed in both places.

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