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    Russian Foreign Minister Says Nuclear Arms Deal With US a Top Priority

    Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov says a new legally binding Russian-American treaty on strategic offensive arms is his government's top priority.  In a speech to the U.N. Conference on Disarmament, Lavrov outlined other area of concern including the spread of nuclear weapons and the prevention of an arms race in outer space.

    Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, says he believes Russia can work with the new Obama administration in a way it was not able to with the previous administration.  He says Washington seems open to dealing with questions of multi-lateral disarmament and this bodes well for future negotiations between the two countries on a variety of difficult issues.

    Lavrov says Russia is prepared to take up the U.S. request that it reset its relations with Washington.  He says he and U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton agree that everything is on the table - this includes issues of common interest, as well as areas of difference.

    "Number one priority, if only chronologically, but also in substance is Strategic Arms Treaty, which expires in December this year.  We both believe that we need a new one and our experts would concentrate on preparing some new ideas for our presidents to consider and to give new instructions," he said.

    U.S. and Russian experts are working on an arms control plan for U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, to discuss when they meet for the first time at the G20 summit in London on April 2.

    Lavrov says he reiterated Russia's concerns to Hillary Clinton about basing a missile defense shield in Poland and in the Czech Republic.    He says placing these missiles in Eastern Europe would involve risks for Russia's strategic interests and Russia would have to take counter measures to alleviate these risks.

    "At the same time, we would prefer not to move in this direction and if as our American colleagues say this is about countering a threat from the South, then the proposal which Russia made two years ago on joint work to monitor those threats using assets which Russia possesses on its own territory and in neighboring countries.  This proposal is certainly going in the direction of doing something about potential threats from the south," he said.

    Lavrov says he believes there are solutions, which can be found to diffuse this contentious issue.  He adds he is heartened to learned that the U.S. Congress is looking at other possible options.

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