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Russia and the United States have every chance of reaching
Russia and the United States have every chance of reaching an agreement on a new arms reduction treaty to replace START-1 by December this year, a Russian deputy foreign minister said on Friday.

"There is ample time before December to work out a serious and detailed document," Sergei Ryabkov said.

The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-1) signed between the Soviet Union and the United States in 1991 places a limit of 6,000 strategic or long-range nuclear warheads on each side. The treaty expires in December 2009.

Ryabkov also said that Moscow was pinning great hopes on a forthcoming meeting between President Dmitry Medvedev and his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama, scheduled for April 1 in London.

"The widely discussed 'reboot' initiated by our American partners has really begun. We are doing well. We hope that further development of the dialogue and its reinvigoration ... will enable us to build up the positive quality of bilateral relations," he said.

Relations between the former Cold War archrivals have been strained in recent years over a host of differences, including the planned U.S. missile defense in Eastern Europe and Russia's armed conflict with U.S. ally Georgia in August.

The two countries' top diplomats made a symbolic reboot to improve ties when they met in Geneva earlier this month.

Ryabkov warned, however, that Russia would never mindlessly go along with the U.S. plans for a missile shield.

"We are ready for cooperation on the missile shield, but not in the role of a draft horse that puts on a harness and pulls in the direction ordered by a teamster," he said.

The United States has cited Iran's controversial nuclear program as one of the reasons behind its plans to deploy a missile base in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic. The missile shield has been strongly opposed by Russia, which views it as a threat to its national security.

Top Russian officials have repeatedly expressed their hope that President Obama will not follow through with the missile defense plans of his predecessor, George W. Bush.

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