Russia, US Nearing Deal on Arms Reduction

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Top Russian and U.S. officials say negotiators are close to clinching a new treaty to cut the nuclear arsenals of the two powers.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at a joint news conference in Moscow Thursday, the start of Clinton’s two-day visit to Russia.

The two countries have been working for almost a year on a replacement for the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, which expired last December.

Lavrov said negotiations have entered the final stage, while Clinton cited “substantial progress” and expressed hope that a final agreement would be announced soon.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russia’s President Dmitri Medvedev agreed last year to further reduce their nations’ stockpiles of nuclear weapons under a new treaty.

The negotiations have bogged down in recent months with Russian concerns about U.S. plans for a missile defense system in Europe and disagreements about how to verify nuclear arms cuts.

Clinton and Lavrov are due to attend a dinner in Moscow Thursday with other top officials from the Middle East Quartet of international peace mediators. The officials are scheduled to hold formal talks Friday about how to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The U.S. secretary of state is also scheduled to meet with President Medvedev on Friday.

‘Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.’

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