U.S. Arms Negotiator To Visit

U.S.-Russian talks on Washington's controversial missile defense plans for Central Europe and on prospects to renew a nuclear arms reduction pact set to expire in December, will resume this week, the U.S. State Department said Friday.

Delegations led by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and John Rood, acting U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control, will meet behind closed doors, Interfax also reported last week, citing an anonymous source in the Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice might also hold discussions in New York this week, the news agency reported. Lavrov is at the United Nations for talks on the Middle East and Somalia.

At the end of this week, Undersecretary of State Przemyslaw Grudzinski, will head a delegation from Poland, where the missiles are to be stationed, to hold talks in Moscow, Interfax said Friday, citing diplomatic sources.

The administration of outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush has been trying to resolve the ongoing dispute over its missile plans, which Moscow says are a threat to its national security.

The U.S. State Department said last month that Rood planned to meet government officials to address concerns over missile defense.

But shortly afterwards the Kremlin rejected another set of U.S. proposals aimed at easing those concerns.

The talks with Rood will also focus on stalled efforts to negotiate a follow-on deal to the 1991 START I agreement, under which the Soviet Union and the United States slashed their deployed nuclear forces. The current agreement ends in December.

(AP, MT)