U.S., Russia close to new nuclear arms reduction pact: Obama

The United States and Russia are ''quite close'' to striking a deal on terms for a new nuclear arms limitation treaty, U.S. President Barack Obama said Friday.

''We've been making excellent progress. We are quite close to an agreement,'' he told reporters after meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on the fringes of the U.N. climate conference in the Danish capital.

''And I'm confident that it will be completed in a timely fashion,'' Obama said, referring to negotiations for a successor agreement to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START I.

The United States and Russia have been negotiating on a post-START I deal in hopes of concluding negotiations by the end of the year.

But the talks are expected to be carried over to next year, with negotiators still at loggerheads over verification procedures for the new pact, which have become the last stumbling block to a deal.

Although START I expired Dec. 5, the treaty remains in force while the talks continue, in line with an earlier agreement between the two countries.

Obama and Medvedev agreed in April 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. 21, 2009)