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Russia ready for new arms reduction talks with U.S. - Lavrov

MOSCOW, February 10 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow is ready to hold talks with the new U.S. administration on cuts in strategic offensive weapons, Russia's foreign minister said on Tuesday.

The Strategic Arms Reduction (START-1) Treaty signed between the Soviet Union and the United States in 1991 expires on December 5, 2009.

"We are ready for talks, which will allow us to preserve the mechanism of limitations and reductions of strategic offensive weapons and we are glad that the new U.S. administration is paying priority attention to this subject," Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with Russia's Vesti-24 TV news channel.

Officials from the new administration of President Barack Obama have said Washington was committed to a further reduction of nuclear arms, adding that negotiations with Russia would need to pick up pace.

Lavrov said Russia sought a clearer response from the former administration for 2 1/2 years, but the progress was very slow and had not produced the desired results so far.

"We have noticed that the Obama team is ready to discuss the whole range of issues, including the mechanisms of verification and control, mutual inspections. We shall hope that when the disarmament team is formed in the State Department, which has not happened as yet, we will be able to start the talks immediately," he said.

The START-I Treaty places a limit of 6,000 strategic or long-range nuclear warheads on each side, and limits the number of delivery vehicles, such as bombers, land-based and submarine-based missiles, to 1,600 each.

Moscow and Washington agreed in 2002 to cut strategic nuclear warheads to 1,700-2,200 by the end of 2012, and reports say a new treaty could bring the totals on each side down to 1,000.

However, Lavrov said it was necessary not only to reduce offensive weapons, but also to ensure the effective use of control mechanisms and procedures, "which the previous administration ignored categorically."