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Russia, U.S. may sign new arms cuts treaty in March-Apr. - Kremlin

RIA Novosti


MOSCOW, February 3 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and the United States may sign a nuclear arms reduction pact to replace the outdated START treaty in March or April, the Russian president's aide said on Wednesday.

"The wordings have been mainly agreed on, some minor disagreements remain," Sergei Prikhodko said.

Disagreements over verification and control procedures prevented Moscow and Washington from signing a new deal before the New Year break to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START 1), which expired on December 5.

President Dmitry Medvedev and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama ordered a speedy completion of the deal last week. A new round of talks on the treaty began on Monday.

Another Kremlin official said on condition of anonymity on Wednesday that U.S. experts close to the negotiations have named Prague as a possible venue for the signing of the deal.

"Moscow has not rejected the choice," he said. "The treaty is likely to be signed in a third country."

The Bush administration wanted to place a radar base in the Czech Republic as part of its controversial missile shield plans for Europe. Moscow considered the scheme a threat to its national security. The plans were abandoned by Obama last year.

Medvedev and Obama pledged at their first meeting in April 2009 to replace the START I treaty as part of broader efforts to "reset" bilateral ties strained in recent years.

The Kremlin official also said the new treaty will heed Moscow's concerns about the U.S. missile defense plans, but did not elaborate further.

The United States dropped an earlier plan for an antimissile defense system in Europe, which also included an interceptor missile base in Poland, earning a strong welcome from Moscow. But last month, Washington said it was dispatching Patriot missiles to Poland, the former Soviet-bloc state and now a NATO nation.

Russia has been alarmed by the growing NATO presence on its western borders and threatened to respond to any change in the military balance on the borders.

A senior Russian lawmaker, meanwhile, flew to the United States on Wednesday to prepare a coordinated ratification of a new strategic arms reduction treaty.

The new treaty's outline, as agreed on by the Russian and U.S. leaders, includes cutting nuclear arsenals to 1,500-1,675 operational warheads and delivery vehicles to 500-1,000.

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