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Lavrov Says New Arms Pact Coming Soon

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia and the United States are close to signing a new pact to cut nuclear arms and replace the expired START-1 treaty, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said today.

"The question is easy. The treaty will be signed soon," Lavrov told a news conference, when asked by Reuters if the new agreement would be signed before the scheduled end of the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen on December 18.

Lavrov did not specify an exact date.

Work on a new arms pact has become a key element in efforts by Moscow and Washington to "reset" their relations after a series of bitter rows in the past years.

However, despite intensive negotiations lasting months, Moscow and Washington did not agree a replacement pact by December 5, when START-1 expired.

Both countries have imposed a blackout on details of the talks, but sources on both sides have signaled that only a few elements of the new treaty, which would further cut the nuclear arsenals of Russia and the United States, were outstanding.

A senior Kremlin aide said on December 8 the new arms pact was expected to be signed before the end of the year.

In the meantime, Russia and the United States have pledged to stick to the terms of the START-1 treaty.

In Washington, the head of the U.S. military said the United States and Russia intend to reach agreement on a successor to START I.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declined to give details on the negotiations, but said national security officials at the highest levels of both governments are currently involved in the deliberations.