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Russian General Warns Of Problems In Nuclear Talks

General Nikolai Makarov
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia's top general has said problems still remained in concluding a nuclear arms treaty with the United States, Interfax news agency reported, weeks before the current START agreement expires.

Washington and Moscow both herald efforts to agree cuts in their nuclear arsenal as a major step towards resetting relations that cooled to near Cold War levels over the past decade.

"There are a number of problems related to verification, primarily inspections, and some figures, which are currently being discussed at negotiations," Nikolai Makarov, the Russian armed forces chief of staff, was quoted by Interfax as saying.

But Makarov qualified his comments, saying he remained optimistic that negotiators could still reach a deal. "I think all the issues should be settled," Makarov said.

He also said a U.S. mission to the city of Votkinsk, where Russian missiles are manufactured, would have to wind up its activities by December 5, when the current Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) runs out.

Traditionally, the Russian military strikes a more cautious note on talks with the United States than Russia's Foreign Ministry, which has pointed to progress at talks being held in Geneva.

The talks are expected to be on the agenda when U.S. President Barack Obama meets Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev on the sidelines of a regional summit in Singapore on November 15.

Last July, they set out the framework for the new treaty, which they said should restrict deployed strategic warheads at between 1,500 and 1,675 while limiting the number of delivery platforms to between 500 and 1,100.

But two stumbling blocks remain, one linked to restrictions on Russia's mobile Topol-M missiles and the second to the number of missile-delivery vehicles both sides can possess, "Kommersant" newspaper reported, citing unnamed experts in the talks.

Moscow is rejecting Washington's attempt to restrict the Topol-M mobile ballistic missiles, as the United States does not possess equivalent mobile land-based missiles, the paper reports.

It also says both sides remain divided on the number of delivery platforms that can be deployed, with the United States suggesting 1,100 and Russia 500, the paper reports.

The separate Moscow Treaty, which limits both sides to no more than 2,200 warheads will not expire until 2012, but does not contain detailed guidelines, like the 1991 START treaty on how to verify compliance with the weapons cuts.