Washington/Moscow, Mar 26 (DPA): US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev are close to finalising the most comprehensive nuclear arms control treaty in nearly two decades, according to US and Russian officials.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters that the two leaders were expected to "wrap up" the new treaty during a telephone call that would take place in the coming days.
The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) replaces a 1991 agreement that expired in December. The treaty will likely be signed in Prague April 8, according to Russia's embassy to the Czech Republic.
The new treaty would require both sides to reduce their arsenals of long-range nuclear weapons from 2,200 to between 1,500 and 1,675 missiles each, the Washington Post and New York Times reported. There would also be smaller cuts to warheads and bombs based on planes, ships and land.
"All documents related to the new treaty have been agreed upon," said a Kremlin spokesman, speaking anonymously, cited by the Post.
The White House was less forthcoming. Gibbs said the two sides were close to a deal, but that Obama and Medvedev needed to speak by phone before any formal announcement could be made.
"We're hopeful to have a call with President Medvedev in the next few days and hope that we can wrap up a new treaty on the next call," Gibbs said.
The likely signing ceremony in Prague would come just days before Obama hosts dozens of world leaders in Washington for a summit on nuclear non-proliferation. Obama in 2009 in Prague set a goal of a nuclear-free world and having a START treaty will likely strengthen his hand at the Washington summit.
"It will demonstrate a strong partnership between the US and Russia being able to address not just the problems of nuclear security in their two countries, but the deadly spread of nuclear weapons throughout the world," Gibbs said.
Some analysts have said this would be the most significant arms control agreement between the two countries since the 1993 signing of the START II treaty, which was never ratified by Russia.
Before the treaty can come into effect, it must be ratified by the legislatures of both countries, a step that is not guaranteed.