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Biden says US wants to renew ties with Moscow

AFP/The Local · 7 Feb 2009, 14:53

Published: 07 Feb 2009 14:53 GMT+01:00

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"It is time to press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can and should work together," he said, addressing foreign leaders the conference in southern Germany.

Biden signaled that the new team of US President Barack Obama was ready to consider Russian demands in negotiations to renew START, a key Cold War-era nuclear disarmament treaty set to expire in December.

"We can and should cooperate... to renew the verification procedures in the START treaty and then go beyond existing treaties to negotiate deeper cuts in both our arsenals," Biden said.

Talks on renewing START had stalled under the previous administration of George W. Bush, in part due to disagreement over Russian demands that a successor agreement be legally binding with strict verification procedures.

The START accord calls for reducing the number of US nuclear warheads from 10,000 to 8,500 and Russia's arsenal from 10,200 to 6,450. Signed in 1991, it led to massive reductions in the two countries' nuclear arsenals.

In other remarks Biden indicated that the Obama administration might review a project to deploy missile defence facilities in Eastern Europe that has provoked a furious reaction from Moscow.

"We will continue to develop missile defence to counter a growing Iranian capability, provided the technology is proven and it is cost effective," he said.

The comments appeared to suggest that the multi-billion project would be reviewed, a move likely to be welcomed by Moscow.

Biden also criticised what he called a "dangerous drift" in ties between Russia and NATO, saying that they should not be viewed as a zero-sum game.

"The United States rejects the notion that NATO's gain is Russia's loss, or that Russia's strength is NATO's weakness," he said.

Biden joined forces with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on Saturday to urge European allies to step up efforts in Afghanistan, as the United States prepares to send in thousands more troops.

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"A deteriorating situation in the region poses a security threat to all of us, not just the United States," Biden said, as Washington reviews its policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

He said a comprehensive strategy was needed "for which we all take responsibility, that brings together our civilian and military resources, that prevents a terrorist safe haven, and that helps Afghans develop the capacity to secure their own future."

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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