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Russia hoping for change in U.S. foreign policy - Lavrov


MOSCOW, January 28 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Moscow is hoping to observe positive changes in U.S. foreign policy under President Barack Obama.

"We believe that Washington's policy on the international arena will contain changes for the better," Lavrov said. He also said Russia hoped there "would be a new possibility to restart our relations after a period of extensive turbulence last year."

Relations between Moscow and Washington plunged to a post-Cold War low under President George W. Bush over missile defense, NATO expansion, differences on Iran's nuclear program, and most recently over Russia's five-day war with U.S. ally Georgia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Lavrov said Moscow was "open for equal dialogue" and stressed that the missile defense issue and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-1), which expires on December 5, 2009, were a top priority in bilateral relations.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in an interview with Bloomberg Television released on Monday he was "cautiously optimistic" about future relations with the United States under President Barack Obama.

Putin said that there had been signals that Obama could review his predecessor's plans for a missile defense system in Central Europe and NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia. "In Obama's inner circle, they are saying there is no need to rush it, and it needs to be further analyzed, and we welcome such statements," he said.

Obama has demanded more analysis of a planned missile base in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic. Bush said the missile shield was needed to counter possible strikes from Iran and North Korea. Moscow, which has treated the plans as a security threat, warned late last year it might place short-range missiles and tracking systems near Poland in response.

A high ranking ministry source in Russia's Defense Ministry said on Wednesday they considered it premature to announce plans on the deployment of Iskander missile systems in the country's Baltic exclave saying "no practical measures" were taken.

"The statements by the new U.S. administration allow us to hope that they will be more prepared for joint analytic work and constructive consideration of all aspects of strategic stability than the previous administration," Lavrov said.

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