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Russia, US Begin Talks Over New Arms Control Pact

Negotiations between Russia and the United States on a new agreement to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons opened Tuesday in Moscow.

The two-day talks are aimed at crafting a replacement to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires in December.

Negotiators hope to narrow their differences ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's scheduled visit to Moscow in July for talks with his Russian counterpart, Dmitri Medvedev.

Russian negotiators are likely to use the talks to discuss Washington's plans to deploy a controversial missile shield in Europe, which Moscow bitterly opposes. They also want to impose limits on both nuclear warheads and their delivery systems, such as missiles and bombers.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed the Russia-U.S. talks as a "new momentum for disarmament" Tuesday in Geneva at the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed optimism the two sides will negotiate a new nuclear arms treaty after talks with top U.S. officials in Washington last week.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.