Wednesday, March 24, 2010

U.S. and Russia appear on verge of nuclear arms reduction deal

With Western nations focused on emerging nuclear powers North Korea and Iran, word from Washington on Wednesday that the United States and Russia are on the verge of reaching a new agreement to reduce the world's largest nuclear arsenals comes as quite a surprise. But it's a good surprise for a change. Officials from both countries say U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev have managed a way around the last remaining obstacle to a deal to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty of 1991 that expired in December, according to the New York Times. The two leaders reportedly need one more meeting to finalize the new agreement, which would require their countries to reduce warheads and launchers by more than 25 percent, the Times said. The White House and the Kremlin declined to comment on the reports, but officials on both sides confirmed the breakthrough on the condition of anonymity, the newspaper said. A signing ceremony is planned in Prague early next month. The deal caps a year of sometimes problematic negotiations that was originally intended to wrap up a new deal by the end of 2009. But the talks got hung up on verification, sharing information and limits on missile defense systems, the Times said, even though Obama agreed not to construct a planned European-based missile shield authorized by his predecessor, former President George W. Bush. The planned Prague ceremony would help jump-start an international summit on nuclear nonproliferation that Obama has scheduled for April 12 and 13 in Washington, the Times said.

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