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Obama Arrives In Prague To Sign START Accord

U.S. President Barack Obama arrives at Prague's Ruzyne Airport
PRAGUE -- U.S. President Barack Obama has arrived in Prague where he is due later today to sign a nuclear arms treaty with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev aimed at cutting hundreds of weapons from the nuclear arsenals of the two countries.

The "New START" agreement -- successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expired in December -- is to be signed at Prague Castle. In a speech there one year ago, Obama set out his goal of working toward a world without nuclear weapons.

President Medvedev said after talks in Prague on April 7 with Czech President Vaclav Klaus that the new U.S.-Russian treaty could play an important role in shaping future world disarmament efforts.

Obama and Medvedev also are expected to hold talks before today's signing ceremony.

The pact, agreed after months of sometimes difficult negotiations, is intended to reduce both nations' arsenals of strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 during the next seven years -- about a third less than currently permitted. Russia and the United States together possess 95 percent of the world's nuclear weapons.

Lawmakers in both countries must ratify the treaty before it can come into effect.

Following the signing, Obama is scheduled to host a dinner in Prague with heads of state from 11 Eastern and Central European countries. Reports say the meeting is aimed at emphasizing that U.S. interests in the region remains strong.