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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Arms Talks Remain For Next U.S. President

WASHINGTON- The United States and Russia kept arms control talks alive Thursday, seeking to ensure continuity in one of the world's most important foreign policy dialogues despite the delay in naming the next U.S. president.

"People are very interested in keeping the momentum going, particularly on the strategic dialogue on offense, defense and proliferation issues," a U.S. official said.

"They want to make sure it's all teed up for the next people who come in," he added.

He was speaking after Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, pivotal in President Bill Clinton's Russia policy, held one of his last rounds of talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov.

Their goal has been to agree upon the pace of arms cuts in the massive nuclear arsenals built up during the Cold War without wrecking their defenses or upsetting the balance on international arms treaties.

No breakthroughs are expected from their talks, which end Friday, though they may meet again before Clinton's administration closes shop Jan. 20, the official said.

Without the delay in naming the next U.S. president due to a bruising legal battle over who won more votes in the state of Florida, Mamedov would have known at least what political shade of counterpart he would be dealing with after Jan. 20.

Analysts say their main sticking point will not go away. Talks have been stymied over whether the United States should build a National Missile Defense (NMD) to protect itself from missile attack from states considered unpredictable, including North Korea, Iran and Iraq.

The Clinton administration would have liked to get further in arms talks with Russia, convincing Moscow to agree to amend the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) of 1972 so Washington could build the system, which uses missiles to shoot down missiles.

The two U.S. presidential contenders have different positions on an NMD. Democrat Al Gore has said he would examine a missile defense system to shield U.S. territory while seeking agreement from partners like Russia.

Republican George W. Bush has said he would build a broader system, even if it meant pulling out of the 1972 treaty.

Critics say the system could make the world more dangerous instead of safer, arguing that amassing any missiles only encourages others to build more to outflank the U.S. defense.

A key concern for the United States is whether Russia is doing enough to prevent nuclear materials and technology it amassed during the Soviet years from being spread from its territory.

The United States is also anxious to find out more about Moscow's intentions toward Iran, a subject that came up at the discussions on Thursday, the official said.

Moscow is due on Friday to pull out of a pact sealed in 1995 by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Vice President Gore under which Russia ended conventional arms exports to Tehran at the end of 1999.


Apart from arms, they touched another sore spot -- the case of Edmond Pope, a retired naval intelligence officer on trial in Moscow for allegedly obtaining secret data on a torpedo.

The United States strongly denies that Pope was a spy and believes him when he says he was just trying to do business.

Clinton has asked President Vladimir Putin to intervene because the 54-year-old suffers from bone cancer and faces up to 20 years in prison. His entreaties have prompted no action.

Talbott and Mamedov, who also discussed China, North Korea and Afghanistan, laid the ground for meetings between their respective defense and foreign ministers at the North Atlantic Council in Brussels next month.