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New arms treaty between Russia, USA would meet security interests of sides - general

MOSCOW. May 18 (Interfax) - A new Russian-U.S. arms limitation treaty replacing START I expiring in December 2009 would meet the interests of international security, Commander of the Strategic Rocket Force Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov said.

"The expiration of the START I treaty in December without new understandings in this sphere would indisputably undermine the regimen of international control over strategic nuclear armaments. Therefore it was decided to draft a new treaty between Russia and the United States to replace START I," he told the press commenting on the upcoming first round of Russian-U.S. talks on strategic offensive armaments.

"It would meet the interests of this country, if the new treaty restricted the number of carriers of strategic nuclear weapons, not just warheads and extended the ban on deploying strategic offensive armaments outside of national territory," Solovtsov said.

Besides, the new agreement must clearly define all the terms, he said. It should also stipulate for a simplified version of the mechanism of inspections of information exchanges tested in the START I.

Solovtsov noted that missiles whose service life has not yet expired will not be decommissioned from his force.

"Not a single launcher or missile regiment will be decommissioned, if their service life has not run out. Such an approach will remain with regard to the new treaty that will be signed with the United States," Solovtsov said.

Earlier Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said that the first round of Russian-U.S. talks on the limitation of strategic armaments will be held in Moscow on May 18-20. "It has been agreed that the first round of full-scale talks will take place in Moscow on May 18 to 20," he said.

According to a U.S. State Department report published in April, as at January 1 Russia had 814 deployed carriers of nuclear arms, including ground based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and heavy bombers as well as 3,909 nuclear warheads.

The same report said the United States had 1,198 carriers and 5,576 warheads.

The sides retained a relative parity in the total number of ICBMs - 550 in the USA and 469 in Russia. However, Russian missiles had more warheads - 2,005 compared to 1,250 in the USA.

The United States was superior in the number of strategic bombers 216 compared to 77 in Russia as well as SLBM 4321 compared to 268. It also had more warheads on these carriers - 4,326 against 1,904.

START I expiring on December 5 binds Russia and the United States to reduce the number of deployed carriers to no more than 1,600 and the number of warheads to no more than 6,000.

In 2002 Russia and the USA signed the Moscow Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty which stipulates for the reduction of warheads to 1,700-2,000 on each side by 2012.