Page last updated at 22:55 GMT, Thursday, 7 May 2009 23:55 UK

Obama pursues better Russia ties

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and President Barack Obama in Washington, 7 May 2009
Barack Obama (foreground) is due to visit Russia in July

President Barack Obama has said the US and Russia have an "excellent opportunity" to improve relations on a "whole host of issues".

They include nuclear proliferation, Afghanistan and Pakistan, conflicts in Iraq and the Middle East, and the global economy, he said.

Mr Obama was speaking after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Mr Lavrov had earlier met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for talks on reducing nuclear stockpiles.

Russia and the US have begun working on a new treaty to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or (Start I), which expires in December.

'New level'

Mr Lavrov's visit came after Nato exercises in Georgia put relations between the two countries under renewed strain.

It is, I think, old thinking to say that we have a disagreement in one area, therefore we shouldn't work on something else
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Before arriving in Washington, the Russian foreign minister cancelled a meeting at Nato in protest against the exercises.

Russia also announced the expulsion of two Nato diplomats on Wednesday in retaliation for Nato revoking the credentials of two Russian envoys in Brussels.

Nato's expansion into Eastern Europe is one point of recent contention between Russia and the US.

Others include disagreements over Russia's war with Georgia and how to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions.

But Mr Obama, who is due to visit Russia in July, said the two powers could narrow their differences.

Obama spoke of an 'excellent opportunity'

"We have an excellent opportunity to reset the relationship between the United States and Russia on a whole host of issues," he said.

Mrs Clinton and Mr Lavrov also struck an upbeat tone, saying that despite disagreements, their countries could still have good working relations.

After their meeting, Mr Lavrov said disagreements were "natural for relations between any two large states".

"I note the constructive, business-like nature of our talks," he said.

"It is important to implement the positive agenda of Russian-American relations, normalise them, rid ourselves of the negative legacy of the past and raise relations to a new level."

Mrs Clinton said: "It is, I think, old thinking to say that we have a disagreement in one area, therefore we shouldn't work on something else that is of overwhelming importance."

Alongside the nuclear arms treaty, the two also discussed the global economy, Afghanistan and the Middle East.

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