US hindering START talks – Russian foreign minister

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters on Thursday that the US side was holding up talks on the new treaty on strategic arms reduction.

The minister said that the signing of the document in Copenhagen this week is unlikely.

“Our team is ready for work and several contacts between Moscow and Washington took place yesterday,” Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted the minister as saying on Thursday. But the Russian official added that US negotiators had said they needed additional instructions to go on with the process.

The Russian minister noted that the completion stage of the talks required two working principles from negotiators. These are the deepest possible reductions of offensive weapons and the development of control mechanisms that would match the new treaty and not the recently expired one.

The likelihood of a signing in Copenhagen is low, according to Lavrov, as more time is needed for the technical work. The minister said that he thought it most probable that in Copenhagen the Russian and US presidents would announce that the work on the document is over, but the actual signing will be postponed till January next year.

The START -1 treaty, the most comprehensive agreement to cut nuclear weapons in history, expired earlier this month. It was signed by Presidents Gorbachev and Bush in 1991 and more than halved the nuclear arsenals held by the two countries.

Moscow and Washington have been working for months to come up with an agreement to replace it.