US defence chief in London en route for Moscow talks
( AFP ) - US Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived in London on Thursday for talks with his British counterpart, during a stopover en route for Moscow for likely tough talks with Russian authorities.
Gates was expected to discuss the latest situation in Iraq, Afghanistan and possibly Iran with his British opposite number Des Browne in the six-hour stop here, aides travelling with him said.
He may also sound out London on discord with Moscow, which will likely dominate his trip to Europe.
Gates and Browne were due to give a press conference after their talks at noon (1100 GMT), before the US defence chief heads on for the Russian capital in the afternoon.
The talks with Russia are expected to focus on an assortment of arms control agreements that restrained the two superpowers during the Cold War, but are now unraveling amid recriminations over US missile defense plans.
In an unusual joint mission to Moscow, Gates and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet their Russian counterparts Friday and Saturday on a range of strategic issues.
These include US missile defence plans for Europe, a Russian threat to suspend its participation in a treaty limiting troops and tanks in Europe, and the approaching expiration of a Cold War-era treaty limiting strategic nuclear weapons.
A senior State Department official who briefed reporters last week said the US side has put forward "some very creative ideas" to resolve differences with Moscow, but gave no sign that the US position on missile defence has changed.
Russia is vehemently opposed, seeing the so-called European site as a military encroachment in its former sphere of influence that could be turned against its nuclear forces.