March 1, 2010 / 9:40 PM / 10 years ago

Medvedev hopes for START successor deal soon

PARIS (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Monday he hopes for agreement very soon on a nuclear arms reduction treaty with the United States.

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev speaks during a meeting with United Russia political party leaders at the Gorki residence outside Moscow March 1, 2010. REUTERS/Ria Novosti/Kremlin/Dmitry Astakhov

Negotiators hammering out a successor for the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START 1) are “close to agreement on practically all questions,” Medvedev told a news conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris.

“In essence, we have reached the final part of negotiations,” Medvedev said. “I hope these negotiations will be finished in the very near future.”

Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama have agreed the treaty must cut deployed warheads to between 1,500 and 1,675 on both sides.

Russian and U.S. negotiators have been working for months in Geneva to hammer out a new treaty. They missed a target of December 5, when START expired. Medvedev suggested the Cold War foes could set an example for other nations by forging a deal before a nuclear proliferation conference in May.

A new pact could boost strained ties between Washington and Moscow and emphasize their commitment to nuclear disarmament at a time when major powers are pressing Iran and North Korea to renounce their nuclear ambitions.

A month-long round of talks ended Saturday.

The sides will resume negotiations on March 9 “with the aim of finalizing the future treaty and presenting it for signing by the presidents of Russia and the United States,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said earlier on Monday.

Sarkozy said Mevedev and Obama are going “in the right direction and it’s extremely positive.”

He urged Russia and the United States to make further reductions in the world’s largest nuclear weapons arsenals swiftly.

The talks have been shrouded in secrecy, but apparent sticking points have included verification and monitoring measures as well as Russia’s opposition to U.S. plans for missile defense facilities in Eastern Europe.

Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and James Mackenzie in Paris; writing by Steve Gutterman

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