Clinton in Russia to hasten disarmament deal

MOSCOW: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today visited Russia in a bid to accelerate progress towards a new accord between the Cold War foes to drastically reduce their nuclear arsenals.

Clinton was to hold talks with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov set to focus strongly on the increasingly protracted process of agreeing a successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) which expired in December.

Negotiators failed to agree a successor by the end-2009

target agreed by US President Barack Obama and Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev and the

issue risks becoming an embarrassment to the “reset” in ties if not settled soon.

While some media reports have said the search for a new treaty has been stymied by major policy differences between the United States and Russia, officials have insisted only technical issues remain to be ironed out. The United States and Russia were “getting closer” to agreement on the new nuclear disarmament treaty, top State Department official William Burns told reporters accompanying Clinton.

Lavrov for his part said he had “seen no sign of something not going well.”

“All the ‘i’s have been dotted and all that remains is diplomatic-technical work... This will

take some time but is purely technical,” he said while

returning from a visit to

Turkmenistan, according to Russian news agencies.

Clinton will also meet Medvedev though it remains unclear whether she will encounter Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, seen by most as still Russia’s de-facto number one.