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Obama, Medvedev To Sign New Arms Pact

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Kent Klein

U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will meet in Prague on Thursday to sign a treaty further reducing both countries' nuclear stockpiles. The signing is expected to boost each country's national security and strengthen the U.S.-Russian relationship.

The two leaders will meet in the Czech capital, where, one year earlier, President Obama laid out his vision of a nuclear-free world. "So today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," he said.

The agreement to be signed Thursday replaces the START-1 treaty, which U.S. President George H.W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev signed in 1991.  It expired last December.

After a year of tough negotiations, Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev will sign a treaty to shrink each country's arsenal of strategic deployed nuclear warheads by 25 to 30 percent.

The pact is a modest but important step forward, according to Kingston Reif,  at the Washington-based Center For Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. "The agreement verifiably limits, reduces excess Russian and US nuclear stockpiles, and it provides for an updated, streamlined, modern set of verification, monitoring and transparency provisions," he said.

Kingston Reif also expects this treaty to help strengthen the often-tense relationship between the countries.  Reif says this improved cooperation is expected to help the U.S. and Russia fight nuclear terrorism and work toward tougher sanctions on Iran for its nuclear activities. "The trust and transparency and confidence that the agreement will bring to the US-Russia relationship will also make it easier for the US and Russia to cooperate on other areas that are central to US and Russian security," he said.

When he announced the agreement on March 26, President Obama suggested that it would also enhance U.S. prestige. "And we've demonstrated the importance of American leadership - and American partnership - on behalf of our own security, and the world's," he said.

After the signing, the treaty must be ratified by the Russian Duma and the U.S. Senate, where 67 of the 100 Senators must approve it.

During his brief stay in Prague, Mr. Obama will also have a one-on-one meeting with his Russian counterpart, and will have dinner with the heads of state of 11 Central and Eastern European countries.

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