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Medvedev: U.S. Missile Move 'Constructive,' Arms Pact Possible

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has praised a U.S. decision to scale back plans to install an antimissile defense system in eastern Europe as a "constructive step."

In a speech to the UN General Assembly, Medvedev urged other nuclear-armed states to join efforts by Russia and the United States to reduce nuclear weapons stocks, and called for a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East.

"All countries of the [Middle East] region need to take an active stance on this issue and demonstrate their willingness to ensure a real progress in establishing a nuclear free zone," he said.

In separate remarks, after holding talks with U.S. President Barack Obama, Medvedev also said Russia and the United States could agree on a new treaty on reducing their nuclear arsenals by December.

"The work is under way," Medvedev told reporters. "A good start allowed us to hope that our teams will cope and in due time [December] we will have a document."

Later in his speech to the UN General Assembly, the Russian leader said he and Obama viewed "verifiable and irreversible reductions" of nuclear weapons as an essential element in the improved relations between the two countries.

The two countries hope to agree a new treaty to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expires in December.

The United States is firmly committed to reaching a replacement treaty with Russia by the December deadline, a senior Obama aide said.

"We are both firmly committed to getting it done on the timeline agreed," Michael McFaul, Obama's top Russia adviser, told reporters after the Obama-Medvedev talks on the sidelines of the General Assembly.