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Russia Wants U.S. To Limit Nuclear Delivery Vehicles

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia wants the United States to agree to limits on all types of nuclear weapons delivery vehicles in a new arms reduction pact that will replace START I, Russia's foreign minister has been quoted as saying.

Moscow and Washington are discussing ways to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), which will expire in December this year.

Finding a replacement to START I, the largest arms-reduction treaty in history, is seen by both Moscow and Washington as an opportunity to make progress on cutting nuclear arsenals while improving ties that have been badly strained in recent years.

But the issue of the actual rockets and other means that can deliver nuclear weapons, such as bombs and artillery shells, is seen as a potential sticking point in the talks on a new treaty.

Russia would like to "preserve limits not only on warheads...but also limits on all types of delivery vehicles," the RIA news agency quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying in Madrid.

Lavrov was quoted as saying the previous U.S. administration of President George W. Bush had tried to move away from limits on nuclear weapons delivery vehicles.

'Find A New Agreement'

Analysts say Russia is worried by moves in the United States to convert nuclear delivery vehicles into conventional weapons and thus classify them as nonstrategic weapons.

Russian officials say they want those converted weapons to be covered in a new agreement.

Lavrov said Russia was against automatically extending the START I treaty past its expiry date and he would discuss the ideas with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Geneva this week.

"We need to find a new agreement," Lavrov was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS news agency.

The START I treaty was signed on July 31, 1991, by U.S. President George Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, five months before the fall of the Soviet Union.

The presidents used pens made from melted-down missiles to sign the treaty, which followed almost 10 years of difficult negotiations.

"Those limits which were agreed in the current agreement today have long been implemented and more than implemented," Lavrov said. "We and the Americans now have really much less than is allowed by the current agreement."