'Right moment' for progress on disarmament: Russian FM

GENEVA, March 7, 2009 (AFP) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday the "right moment" had come for progress on disarmament, after Washington and Moscow agreed on a plan aimed at renewing the START treaty.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) prepares to address the 65-nation United Nations Conference on Disarmament on March 7, 2009 at the UN offices in Geneva. Man at right is unidentified. (Photo: AFP)

"The right moment has come today, for the first time after the end of the Cold War, for making real progress in resuming the global disarmament process on a broad agenda," he told the 65-nation United Nations Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

"I am convinced that we should not miss this opportunity."

Lavrov's address to the conference came a day after his first meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during which both signaled a fresh start on missile defence and disarmament issues.

Clinton said Washington and Moscow have agreed to a plan aimed at renewing their Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which is due to expire by December 5.

The treaty, which was signed in 1991, committed both parties to cut their stock of arsenal, including reducing missiles to a maximum of 1,600 and warheads to no more than 6,000.

Lavrov told the conference he found the first contact with the new US administration "very promising."

He also read out a statement from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who said Moscow is "open to dialogue and is prepared for negotiations with the new US administration."

Medvedev saw nuclear disarmament as "fertile ground for a joint work" and said "constructive interaction in this field will contribute to the general improvement of the Russian-US relations."

Lavrov also signaled that Moscow wanted to seek progress on disarmament through the conference, which has largely stalled over the past decade.

"Time has been lost, we are determined to work quite intensively with our partners from the United States and other states," he told journalists after addressing the conference.

Source: AFP

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