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'No Progress' In Talks On Saving Russia-U.S. Missile Pact As Deadline Looms

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov (left) greets U.S. Undersecretary of State Andrea Thompson (center) and U.S. envoy to the Conference on Disarmament Robert Wood in Beijing on January 30.

Russia and Washington have failed to bridge their differences over a key Cold War-era arms control treaty at last-ditch talks in Beijing, Russian and U.S. officials say.

The impasse sets the stage for the United States to formally pull out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty later this week, and suspend its obligations.

"Unfortunately, there is no progress," Russian news agencies quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying on January 31 following talks with U.S. Undersecretary of State Andrea Thompson on the sidelines of a meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

In an interview with Reuters, Thompson said, "The Russians still aren't in acknowledgment that they are in violation of the treaty."

However, she said that "diplomacy is never done" and she anticipated more discussions.

The fate of the 1987 INF Treaty, widely seen as a cornerstone of arms-control stability in Europe and elsewhere, has been a source of raging tensions between Moscow and Washington.

Washington and NATO now accuse Russia of breaching the treaty by developing the 9M729 cruise missile, also known as the SSC-8.

Moscow denies that the missile is violating the INF Treaty and accuses the United States in turn that it wants to abandon the pact so it can start a new arms race.

Washington has said that if Russia does not return to compliance, it will start the six-month process of leaving the pact from February 2.

U.S. and Russian officials have had several meetings about the dispute.

"As far as we understand, the next step is coming, the next phase begins, namely the phase of the United States stopping its obligations under the INF, which will evidently happen this coming weekend," Ryabkov was quoted as saying.

He also called the U.S. position "rather tough, ultimatum-like" and "destructive."

The INF Treaty was the first of its kind to eliminate an entire class of missiles, banning production, testing, and deployment of land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
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