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US and Russia finalise deal to cut nuclear arsenals by 30 percent

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-03-26

Russia and the United States announced Friday that they had sealed a new nuclear disarmament accord after months of protracted negotiations to replace the START treaty. The deal will slash the number of warheads by 30 percent from 2002 levels.

AFP - US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev on Friday finalized a historic new nuclear arms reduction agreement, slashing the number of warheads by 30 percent.

In a 10:00 am (1400 GMT) telephone call, the two leaders sealed an agreement for a successor to the landmark Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) that expired in December, both sides said.

Obama was set to make a statement on the new treaty, which hands him a badly needed foreign policy achievement, and a dividend for his decision to "reset" US relations with Moscow, at 10:45 (1445 GMT) the White House said.

The new deal specifies limits of 1,550 deployed warheads, which is about 30 percent lower than a previous upper warhead limit set in 2002.

The United States has said it currently has some 2,200 nuclear warheads, while Russia is believed to have about 3,000.

The treaty, which must be ratified by the US Senate and the Russian Duma, limits missile forces to 800 deployed and non-deployed intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, submarine launched ballistic missile launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear weapons.

The cap on deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine launched missiles is set at 700, the White House said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen were scheduled to brief reporters at 10:45 am (1445 GMT), the White House said.

The White House both sides would sign the new treaty on April 8 in Prague, where Obama gave a major speech a year ago calling for a world free of nuclear weapons while acknowledging he may not live to see that goal achieved.

Obama and Medvedev set a goal in July of slashing the number of warheads on either side to between 1,500 and 1,675 warheads and the number of "carriers" capable of delivering them to between 500 and 1,100.

But the original treaty, a cornerstone of Cold War-era strategic arms control, expired on December 5, without negotiators reaching agreement on a successor accord despite prolonged, difficult talks that dragged on for months in Geneva.

An agreement hands Obama his second major political victory in a week after he signed his landmark health care overhaul into law on Tuesday.

Analyst Miles Pomper called the agreement "a significant foreign policy achievement," as it comes before a nuclear security summit next month and the review conference for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in May.

He said the agreement will give "some positive momentum" to the NPT conference, which requires nuclear powers like Russia and the United States to show progress on disarmament.

Signed in 1991, START led to huge reductions in the Russian and US nuclear arsenals and imposed verification measures to build trust between the two former Cold War foes.

Delays in the START talks and missed deadlines had cast a shadow over the Russian and US leaders' efforts to make good on their pledge to improve bilateral ties.

The United States is set to host a nuclear security summit on April 12-13, and observers have said it was a matter of pride for Washington to have the new treaty in place before the talks.

Obama has made talks on replacing START the central element of his efforts to "reset" strained US-Russian relations, but they had reportedly been bogged down by disagreements over US missile defense.

Mikhail Margelov, an influential player in the upper house of Russia's parliament, suggested the new treaty would contain a link between Moscow's resistance to US missile defense and cuts in strategic offensive weapons.

Analysts said US Republicans who staunchly back missile defense may try to deny the Obama administration the two-thirds majority it needs in the Senate to ratify the START treaty.

Date created : 2010-03-26


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