- The Washington Times - Monday, January 25, 2010

RUSSIA

Medvedev says arms treaty near completion

MOSCOW | A new nuclear arms reduction treaty is “95 percent ready,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Sunday in the clearest indication to date that an end to wrangling over the seminal agreement may be close.

Mr. Medvedev said he is optimistic that a deal will be reached and that he was heartened by the pace of negotiations. “I expected the negotiations to take longer, but in the space of six months we have created the backbone of a document,” Mr. Medvedev said.

Expert-level talks to iron out the final details of the treaty are due to take place next month in Geneva. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, and retired Gen. James Jones, President Obama’s national security adviser, were in Moscow last week to discuss treaty negotiations.

A new agreement would succeed the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, which expired Dec. 5. The two countries had hoped to reach a deal before the end of the year.

Mr. Medvedev and Mr. Obama agreed in July to cut the number of nuclear warheads each country has to between 1,500 and 1,675 under a new treaty.

While sounding a positive note over the START deal, Mr. Medvedev expressed reservations about missile-defense plans, however.

The United States has scrapped a plan to position a missile-defense system in Central Europe that had angered Moscow, which accused Washington of undermining its national defense.

Russia praised Mr. Obama for the decision, but Russian officials also have said they want to know more about the sea- and land-based systems the U.S. plans to put in place instead.

Mr. Medvedev said Sunday the issue of plans for a missile-defense system will be discussed at the nuclear arms reduction treaty talks.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said that Russia has no intention to build a missile shield of its own, but that it will have to develop new offensive weapons to offset a future U.S. missile defense.

The Kremlin also was irked by Poland’s announcement last week that a base with a battery of U.S. Patriot missiles, manned by some 100 U.S. troops, will be installed in a town 37 miles from Poland’s border with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

EUROPEAN UNION

EU president Spain backs Turkey entry

BERLIN | European Union president Spain feels that Turkey belongs in the 27-country bloc, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said in an interview published Sunday.

Mr. Moratinos said negotiations to admit candidate Turkey could be successfully completed if it met the so-called Copenhagen criteria — covering such areas as democracy, human rights and the rule of law — which is required for membership.

“It would bring Europe more advantages than drawbacks. There may be difference of opinions between EU member states [over Turkish membership], but all have agreed to wait and watch the negotiations,” Mr. Moratinos told Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

Spain, which holds the EU presidency until the end of June, hopes to open accession talks with Ankara in four new policy areas and see progress in a dispute between Turkey and Cyprus which is blocking Ankara’s bid.

FRANCE

Sarkozy poll ratings low despite Haiti

PARIS | French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s approval ratings remain near record lows, a poll showed Sunday, as he prepared to outline his reform plans to a skeptical public in a prime-time television appearance.

The Ifop poll in weekend newspaper Journal du Dimanche showed Mr. Sarkozy’s approval at 38 percent, up one point since December partly because the government’s swift aid for quake-hit Haiti was seen as positive.

But a row over the salary of the head of state electricity group EDF continued to weigh on ratings before regional elections in March, making it more difficult for Mr. Sarkozy to sell his contested reform policies.

Over the past months, a series of spats and scandals has distracted voters and lawmakers from Mr. Sarkozy’s reform plans.

Public outcry over reports that Henri Proglio was still drawing a salary from Veolia, the environmental services group he led before moving to run EDF in November, has proved damaging to Mr. Sarkozy.

Proglio agreed last week under pressure to give up the $635,800 salary he was drawing from Veolia, where he has retained the title of non-executive chairman.

The pay package row revived anger over a plan last year to install Mr. Sarkozy’s son, Jean, as head of a powerful public agency in charge of Paris’ business district.

GERMANY

Munich Airport scare was false alarm

BERLIN | German authorities have concluded that a man whose laptop triggered a security scare at Munich Airport last week was a harmless passenger.

Part of a terminal was closed for hours Wednesday after the man left a screening area with his laptop, which had triggered an alert for possible explosives, without waiting for officials to check it again.

The regional government said Sunday that video footage showed him wandering from the screening area to a duty-free shop.

It said he apparently didn’t know he caused the alert. He was evacuated along with other passengers and then went through security again — this time without trouble — several hours later.

The scare embarrassed authorities. Germany’s interior minister has promised a thorough investigation.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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