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Russia Looks Forward to Working With Obama

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says he has been listening to and reviewing statements by U.S. President-elect Barack Obama and looks forward to working with the new U.S. administration on a wide range of issues.

Speaking at a Moscow news conference, Foreign Minister Lavrov says that Russia, like many countries, wants to work with the incoming American administration.

Lavrov says Russia seeks continuity in relations, noting with a chuckle, however, they should not resemble those that were practiced in recent years, because they were unsatisfactory. Instead, he would like to see a continuity of principles that Moscow and Washington agreed upon at a high level.

Lavrov cited an April agreement between Presidents George Bush and Vladimir Putin. It provided a framework for their successors on such issues as missile defense, nuclear non-proliferation, arms control, Iran, North Korea, Russian WTO accession, and climate change.

Lavrov expressed hope the Obama administration can achieve a breakthrough on a U.S. proposal to deploy a Central European missile defense system, which the Kremlin opposes as a threat to Russian security. The Bush White House has argued the system is designed to protect against an Iranian missile attack.

Referring to efforts to rein in Iran's nuclear program, Lavrov said he expects contacts made with Tehran in December by the United States, Russia and four European countries to resume soon after Mr. Obama assumes office.

Lavrov says Russia has noted statements by the new team moving into the White House on January 20 regarding direct talks with Iran without preconditions. He says such talks would be a useful way to move the agenda forward.

During the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama qualified his statement, saying he would not necessarily meet Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Sergei Lavrov says he expects the Obama administration will also provide impetus to better bilateral economic relations, and he expects a constructive dialogue on a new strategic arms agreement, to replace the current one, which expires in December.

He says the Middle East crisis probably needs Mr. Obama's immediate attention, adding that the United States should cooperate with its European allies and Russia to address problems in Iraq and Afghanistan.