Russian FM: US, Russia close to reaching arms deal

AP News
Posted: Dec 09, 2009 9:17 PM

Russia and the United States will sign a new nuclear arms deal shortly, the Russian foreign ministry said Wednesday.

Sergey Lavrov sounded upbeat Wednesday when asked about the prospects for a quick successor deal to the 1991 START I treaty that expired Friday.

Asked by a reporter whether the agreement could be signed by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the sidelines of the international climate summit in Copenhagen, Lavrov said: "The treaty will be signed soon."

He wouldn't elaborate.

Obama is set to attend the meeting in Copenhagen on Dec. 18, and Medvedev also could go.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Wednesday that negotiators continue to work to replace the expired treaty. But Gibbs said no ceremony has been scheduled to sign a new treaty.

The START I obliged each country to cut nuclear warheads by at least a quarter, to about 6,000 and included detailed verification procedures. Obama and Medvedev agreed at a summit in July to each cut nuclear warheads to between 1,500 and 1,675 within seven years as part of a new treaty.

In Washington, Daryl Kimball, executive director of the private Arms Control Association, and Linton Brooks, arms control negotiator for the Bush administration, also were optimistic an agreement could be reached soon.

Brooks said the negotiators were concentrating now on verification procedures, or ways to ensure the terms of the treaty would be followed. He said he anticipated the new treaty would go to the Senate for ratification in February.

"There will be a lot of rhetoric, but I will be extremely surprised if the treaty isn't ratified," he said at a seminar held by the Arms Control Association.

(This version CORRECTS the name of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.)