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Russian Expert Optimistic on Prospect of START Talks

MOSCOW. May 17 (Interfax) - Russia and the United States could very well forge a new agreement before the end of the year to replace the expiring START I strategic arms reduction treaty, and many of the current disagreements could be very well settled, retired general Pavel Zolotaryov told Interfax.

"Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's recent visit to the United States and his talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama suggest agreement is achievable," said Zolotaryov, who is a deputy director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of U.S. and Canada Studies.

And ratification procedures for a new agreement could get started as early as in 2010, he said.

Moscow and Washington could find a compromise on many issues, including on the so-called retrievable nuclear potential (stockpiled warheads, not the warheads being scrapped), and also on conventionally-armed delivery means, he said.

Concerning the reserve (stockpiled warheads) - the sides, by all accounts, could agree on bringing them to a level matching the carriers' capabilities," Zolotaryov said. "If the United States removes part of the warheads from multiple warhead intercontinental ballistic missiles, or from submarines, and piles them up in the reserve, this reserve must be the size of the stock, which can be filled back into the carriers - no more," the general said.

On the conventionally-armed carriers, Zolotaryov said, "here, too, a compromise could be negotiated quite easily." It is well known that Russia advocates control over conventionally-armed strategic weapons, but it is not known for the moment what the new U.S. administration's position is on that, he said.

This problem could be solved in the following way, Zolotaryov said. "Russia deems such carriers strategic, regardless of what type of warheads they carry, and its early warning system reacts accordingly," he said.

This being so, the number of such conventionally-armed weapons counts, he added. "For instance, if the allowable number (of nuclear warheads) is 1,500 for the United States and Russia, each, the U.S., suppose, has 1,400 nuclear-armed carriers and 100 conventionally-armed ones," the expert said.