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Russia, US to sign military deal during Obama trip

Moscow, June 26-- Russia and the US will sign a military cooperation deal during President Barack Obama's visit to Moscow in early July, Russia's top military general said Friday.

"We discussed a number of very serious and important matters related both to international and regional security. The main emphasis was laid on European security," the head of Russian general staff, General Nikolai Makarov said.

He said a draft had already been finalised with his US counterpart Admiral Michael Mullen who is currently on a three-day visit to Russia.

Mullen, the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, is to meet Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and the proposed US missile defence shield in Europe is expected to top the agenda during their meeting.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said last week that any strategic arms cuts would only be possible if the US eased Russia's concerns over Washington's plans for a missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland.

The US military has recently reiterated its commitment to missile defence, citing a growing threat from North Korea and Iran, but suggested plans for a European site may change.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has suggested that Russian facilities could be part of the missile defence system, but Moscow has rejected this idea, saying there could be no partnership "in building facilities that are essentially designed to counter Russia's strategic deterrence forces".

Meanwhile, Russia and the US are involved in talks on a new strategic arms reduction deal to replace the START-I treaty, which expires in December.

Moscow, which proposed a new arms reduction agreement in 2005, expects Washington to agree on a deal that would restrict not only the numbers of nuclear warheads, but also place limits on all existing kinds of delivery vehicles.

However, Russia has insisted that the deployment of a planned US missile defence system in Europe would greatly impede progress on strategic arms reductions.

--IANS

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