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Russia 'could drop nuclear arms'

Vladimir Putin - photo 12 May
Mr Putin said he would be happy to meet President Obama

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said his country could give up nuclear weapons if everyone else that had them did the same.

The remarks came as Russian and US officials negotiate a successor to the 1991 Start treaty on arms reduction, which expires in December.

US President Barack Obama will discuss the issue in Moscow next month with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev.

Meanwhile a top general said Russia should not go below 1,500 warheads.

Col-Gen Nikolai Solovtsov, who commands Russia's Strategic Rocket Forces, said Moscow needed this number to ensure its own security.

But he added that the final decision rested with political leaders.

Russia currently has 3,909 warheads and the US 5,576, according the US state department. A limit of 1,700 to 2,200 warheads by 2012 have already been agreed by both sides.

But Mr Putin questioned whether there was a need for nuclear weapons at all.

"If those who made the atomic bomb and used it are ready to abandon it, along with - I hope - other nuclear powers that officially or unofficially possess it, we will of course welcome and facilitate this process in every possible way," he said, in a veiled reference to the US.

He was speaking at a meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has also endorsed the idea of reducing the number of nuclear weapons to zero.



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