START pact to be extended indefinitely as talks continue: W. House

The United States and Russia have agreed that a soon-to-expire nuclear arms reduction pact will remain in force while talks continue on a successor treaty, the White House said Friday.

''President (Barack) Obama spoke with President (Dmitry) Medvedev this morning from the White House to continue to make progress on a renewed START agreement, that as you all know expires on the 5th of December,'' White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters.

''In the event that we don't finish or conclude negotiations, which seem unlikely to be concluded in the next 24 hours, there will be a joint statement from the two presidents outlining that what's in place now will continue to go forward as we make progress toward a renewed agreement in the very near future,'' he said.

The United States and Russia have been negotiating on the post-START I deal in hopes of concluding the talks between the two leading nuclear powers by the end of the year.

In April, Obama and Medvedev agreed to launch the negotiations. They then fixed a framework in July for a new pact that would reduce their vast arsenals of Cold War nuclear warheads to as few as 1,500 each.

Concerning deployed nuclear warheads, the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty commits both sides to cutting their stockpiles to between 1,700 and 2,200.

START I, which resulted in significant reductions in the two nations' nuclear arsenals, limits the number of deployed warheads on both sides to 6,000 and the number of delivery systems to 1,600.

(Distributed by Kyodo News on Dec. 4, 2009)