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Envoys rosy on U.S.-Russia arms treaty

GENEVA — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, declaring a fresh start for relations with Russia, predicted Friday that the two nations would complete a new arms reduction treaty by year's end and find common ground on other major issues.

Upbeat and smiling, both Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after two hours of talks that they had reached no new formal agreements. But they said both sides would develop a working plan to forge an agreement to reduce the two nations' formidable nuclear arsenals.

The aim is to have plans for proceeding on arms talks ready by the time President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev meet at an economic summit in England in April, State Department officials said.

Clinton said "it was a productive meeting of the minds" at which they focused on common interests and "frankly" acknowledged deep differences. On those issues, "we need more trust, predictability and progress."

Lavrov, for his part, cited a "wonderful personal relationship" with Clinton. "We did not agree on everything but we agreed to work on every issue."

Asked if it was realistic to expect a new pact in time to replace the START I treaty by the time it expires in December, Clinton was emphatic. "This is of the highest priority," she said.

Said Lavrov: "I am certain that it is fully within our powers to reach a common denominator and maybe even come out with a plus for our strategic relations on the issues of both START and missile defense."

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Hillary Rodham Clinton presented her Russian counterpart with a mock "reset button" in a gesture designed to symbolize a break from the snarling relationship during the Bush administration. Sergei Lavrov pulled out a small plastic box with a red button that clicked and burst out in a smile. The word "reset" was beneath the button, and the Russian word peregruzka was above it. "We worked hard to get the right Russian word," Clinton said. "Do you think we got it?" Lavrov, who never misses an opportunity for a diplomatic jab, said, "You got it wrong." The word on the box was a few letters off, he said — it should have been perezagruzka — and actually meant "overcharge." Clinton burst out in laughter and declared, "We won't let you do that to us."

Envoys rosy on U.S.-Russia arms treaty 03/06/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 6, 2009 9:36pm]
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