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Moscow looks for NMD answers

MOSCOW, Russia -- U.S. officials have failed to persuade the Kremlin of the benefits of a missile shield, according to Russian officials.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko told reporters that talks in Moscow between U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Russian officials had been substantive but left "more questions than answers."


CNN's Steve Harrigan: Russia is unsure about U.S.'s intentions

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"The United States has been unable to give us arguments to convince us that they see clearly how to solve the problems of international security without damaging disarmament agreements which have stood for 30 years," he said. "But I want to underline that discussions will continue."

The U.S. team said the talks, which form part of a global charm offensive to sell President George W. Bush's proposed $60 billion National Missile Defense programme, had constituted a good first step in negotiations.

The Kremlin has said it welcomes the consultation but opposes abandoning the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, a cornerstone of arms control.

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Like many other countries in Europe, Moscow has been critical of the proposal that it says could threaten post-Cold War stability. Russia wants to pursue deeper reductions in nuclear arsenals.

However, CNN's Steve Harrigan said there had been a marked softening in the Russian position over the past few weeks, with officials downplaying talk of a global arms race.

Before the talks started at the Foreign Ministry in Moscow, Russian parliamentarian Vladimir Lukin, a former ambassador to Washington, has urged his government's officials to be flexible.

"We shouldn't oppose the idea of anti-missile defence itself with a gnashing of teeth," he told Ekho Moskvy radio. "Our position here should be flexible."

Friday's talks were taking place amid a chill in U.S.-Russian relations over the expulsion by diplomats on each side and disputes over Iraq. They also come before Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, currently in Finland, makes his first visit to Washington since Bush took office.

U.S. envoys have had difficulty winning over western Europeans this week. Germany refused to give a view on NMD while key questions remained unanswered.

France repeated reservations and diplomats said British officials said they had learned no more than they had from Bush's speech. Another U.S. team is due to visit Turkey on Friday and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is currently in New Delhi to discuss the plan with India's government.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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