Arms control tops the bill as world leaders head to Munich

Tanks, guns and nuclear warheads were set to top the agenda Friday as world leaders headed to the German city of Munich to attend the city's prestigious annual security conference, dpa reported.

Diplomats including German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Russian Deputy Premier Sergey Ivanov and Iran's speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani, were set to debate Iran's nuclear programme, Russia's withdrawal from a key arms-control treaty and the future for nuclear-arms talks between Russia and the United States.

The conference comes just two weeks after the inauguration of US President Barack Obama raised hopes that the US would be willing to hold talks with both Moscow and Tehran on disarmament issues.

Iran is under pressure from the international community over its nuclear programme, which it says is peaceful, but which observers fear is intended to create a nuclear bomb.

Ahead of the conference, Larijani said that he would "bring the Iranian point of view" to Munich.

The US and Russia, meanwhile, are at odds over US plans to site elements of a missile-defence system in Europe.

Russia says that the plans threaten its nuclear deterrent, and in 2007 pulled out of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, which limits the deployment of tanks and bombers in the continent, in protest.

Obama has already said that he will analyse the missile-defence project carefully before approving it, and that he wants to agree a new generation of nuclear-arms reductions with Russia.

Those comments have given rise to hopes in Europe that the US could be willing to trade concessions on the missile shield for Russian cooperation on disarmament.

On Saturday, US Vice-President Joe Biden is set to debate European security with Lavrov, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

On Sunday, top NATO officials are set to debate the future of the alliance's mission in Afghanistan with the country's president, Hamid Karzai.

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