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Putin Calls for Talks With US on New Disarmament Treaty


Russian President Vladimir Putin is calling for new talks with the United States on key weapons reductions issues, three years before the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is due to expire.

President Putin has proposed launching new talks to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, as a 2009 expiration deadline nears.

The treaty signed by the United States and then Soviet Union in 1991 requires both sides to significantly reduce their strategic nuclear arsenals.

Mr. Putin expressed concerns that disarmament efforts have, in his words, effectively stagnated. Through no fault of Russia's, he adds. He urged the United States to return to the negotiating table.

His comments were carried during a rare television broadcast of President Putin addressing Russian diplomats. He laid out a vision of a foreign policy based on, what he called, equal footing and universal principles of international law.

The Russian president said he is convinced that dialogue, not isolation of one state or another, is what resolves crises like that now playing out in the West over Iran's nuclear program.

A key economic ally of Iran, Russia has resisted Western pressure to back U.N. sanctions against Tehran if it does not reveal the full nature of its nuclear program and guarantee to halt controversial uranium enrichment. Washington fears Tehran could use such enrichment to build a nuclear weapon.

President Putin told the diplomats that ultimatums only serve to push situations to a dead-end.

He also urged the diplomats to keep the Middle East and the whole of the Asia-Pacific region within their sights.

The Russian leader is urging a foreign policy of equality and mutual respect with the United States. Several times during the past few years, President Putin has suggested that Russia is often lectured to by the West, rather than respected or heard.

That frustration was again evident when the president sought to downplay recent criticism over Russia's decision to switch to market-based settlements for gas with its neighbors, like Ukraine.

Mr. Putin says the criticism is politically motivated and based on, as he put it, outdated perceptions and prejudices of Russia. Not everyone is ready for Russia to restore its economic health so quickly, he adds.

The president addressed the diplomatic corps a little more than two weeks to go before the upcoming G-8 Summit in St. Petersburg, which Russia is hosting for the first time.