Obama, Medvedev happy on arms pact, signing seen near
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and President Barack Obama are satisfied with the "high level of consensus" on a new pact to cut nuclear arms and it is now possible to talk of a firm date for signing a treaty, the Kremlin said on Saturday.
Russia and the United States have been negotiating for nearly a year a new treaty to reduce their arsenals of nuclear weapons. The pact is a cornerstone of Washington's efforts to improve relations with Moscow.
Obama and Medvedev held a regular telephone conversation on Saturday and "expressed satisfaction with the high level of consensus on the basic lines of the project of the treaty," the Kremlin press service said in a statement.
It was "underlined that already now it was possible to talk about concrete dates for presenting the (arms treaty) for signing by the heads of states," the statement added. It did not give any date.
In Washington, a White House spokesman said Obama and Medvedev had a "good conversation," reviewing progress in negotiations thus far. "Both leaders are committed to concluding an agreement soon," said Mike Hammer, spokesman for the White House's National Security Council.
Obama and Medvedev launched the arms talks in April of last year as part of a U.S.-inspired attempt to "reset" relations after years of bitter discord under the Bush administration.
The leaders originally set a deadline of December of last year for a new pact -- the same month as an existing arms control treaty, START II, expired.
But talks bogged down amid differences over verification measures and ways of counting weapons and launch systems in the complex treaty. Negotiations have continued up until now in the Swiss city of Geneva.
The two leaders have been under pressure to reach an agreement before a nuclear security summit planned by Obama in Washington next month.
Obama and Medvedev agreed to give their delegations additional instructions for the talks and discussed plans for bilateral contacts in the near future, the statement added.
(Reporting by Dmitry Sergeyev in Moscow, additional reporting by Ross Colvin in Washington, writing by Michael Stott; editing by Matthew Jones and Todd Eastham)
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