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Russia, U.S. May Sign Nuclear Deal At Climate Talks

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (left) and U.S. President Barack Obama will both be in Copenhagen later this week.
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia and the United States may sign an agreement to replace the START nuclear weapons treaty during the Copenhagen climate summit, a Russian source familiar with the summit plans told Reuters today.

The presidents of the United States and Russia will go to the Danish capital later this week to attend the climate conference, and agreement on cutting their arsenals of nuclear arms would signal previously tense relations are easing.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will be joined by his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, who will be attached to the presidential delegation, said the source.

"Lavrov will be travelling to Copenhagen with the president," the source said, adding that the foreign minister would not be going unless Russia believed the new treaty could be signed with President Barack Obama there.

The White House declined to comment.

Washington and Moscow failed to reach agreement on a successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), the biggest agreed nuclear weapons cut in history, before December 5 when the pact had been due to expire. However, both sides agreed it should remain in force indefinitely pending agreement on a successor.

The START-1 treaty, signed by then-U.S. President George Bush senior and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, took nearly a decade to achieve. Under the deal, Russia more than halved its nuclear arsenal, the Foreign Ministry has said.

Over the past decade, relations between Moscow and Washington became strained over the Iraq war, NATO's eastward expansion and last year's Georgia war, but Obama pledged to improve relations after his election as U.S. president.

A new deal would cut the number of deployed nuclear weapons and the submarines, bombers and missiles used to launch them. But the United States and Russia would still have enough firepower to destroy the world several times over.