U.S., Russian leaders sign new nuclear deal, rifts remain

08:10, April 09, 2010      

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U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev sign a landmark nuclear arms reduction treaty in Prague, capital of Czech Republic on April 8, 2010. (Xinhua/Wu Wei)

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a landmark nuclear arms treaty on Thursday, committing to significant reductions in their countries' atomic arsenals.

The pact, dubbed the "New START," was signed at Prague Castle, the seat of Czech presidents. After the signing, the two leaders glanced at each other and smiled before shaking hands.

Obama hailed the "historic" treaty at a news conference as one step toward the realization of his dream of a nuclear-free world, which he outlined during a speech in Prague on April 5 last year.

Obama said that while a world without nuclear arms was a "long-term goal and may not be achieved in my lifetime," the pursuit of the goal will "make the United States and the world safer and secure." Obama also said the treaty set the stage for further nuclear arms cuts.

Once ratified by the U.S. Senate and the Russian Duma, the treaty, tenaciously negotiated by even the leaders themselves, will replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) that expired Dec. 5.

Under the new pact, the two countries agreed to reduce their deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550 each, or 30 percent below the current level of 2,200, and cut the launchers below 700 each.

The U.S. president said the treaty was a step toward "resetting" U.S.-Russia relations and helping to build mutual confidence, which has been a top American priority since he took office last year.

"When the United States and Russia are not able to work together on big issues, it is not good for either our nations or good for the world," Obama said, adding that the treaty is an important milestone for nuclear security in the world and in U.S.-Russian relations.

On the missile defense system that remains a thorny issue in U.S.-Russian ties, Obama said the two countries would strengthen cooperation on the issue and European allies should also take part in the project.

Medvedev told reporters the signing was "a truly historic event" that would launch a new chapter of cooperation between the two countries.

"What matters most is this is a win-win situation," he said, "No one stands to lose from this agreement. I believe this is a typical feature of our cooperation. Both parties have won... the entire world community has won."

Medvedev also said that Russia would issue a statement on missile defense, reaffirming its stance that it would withdraw from the pact if the strategic balance was disrupted by U.S. missile defense.

As for the Iranian nuclear issue, Obama warned that Iran would face strong sanctions if it continues its uranium enrichment and refuse talks on its nuclear program.

Medvedev said he didn't rule out the possibility of submitting the Iranian nuclear issue to the United Nations Security Council, as Iran failed to respond to the proposals the international community.

"Those sanctions should be smart, sanctions that are capable of producing proper behaviour," Medvedev said.

The two nuclear superpowers signed the treaty just days before the two international conferences, the Nuclear Security Summit on April 12-13 in Washington and the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in May in New York.

The two leaders want to show their commitment to arms control and lead the nuclear arms reduction process in the world, analyst say, adding that U.S. policymakers hope the signing will reinforce their push for a new round of sanctions on Iran at the meetings.

Source: Xinhua

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