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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S., Russia to Discuss Nuclear Treaty Friday

Negotiators from the United States and Russia will take the first steps toward a new treaty to curb nuclear arms Friday, part of an effort to improve relations.

The Rome talks were called after Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev agreed at their first meeting in London earlier this month to work out a replacement for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START I, which expires Dec. 5.

The head of the U.S. delegation -- Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance Rose Gottemoeller -- told a conference this month that it would be hard to meet the December deadline.

Anatoly Antonov, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Security and Disarmament Department, will head Moscow's team at the Rome talks. He and Gottemoeller, former director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, know each other well, officials said.

Obama and Medvedev have ordered the negotiators to report back on progress in their talks by July, a date that would coincide with Obama's first presidential visit to Russia.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will travel to Washington for talks on nuclear nonproliferation with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on May 7, Foreign Ministry official Igor Neverov said Thursday, RIA-Novosti reported.

In a keynote speech in Prague on April 6, Obama said arms cuts should go together with tough measures against violators of the nuclear non-proliferation regime like Iran or North Korea.

He said the United States would not abandon a project to install missile detection and interception systems in Central Europe, which Russia objects to.

Medvedev said this week that Russia had its own conditions for moving toward new arms reduction accords, such as banning the deployment of weapons in space and making it impossible to compensate for nuclear cuts by building up other forces.

He also said Russia wanted warheads and missiles destroyed rather than stockpiled.

Medvedev and Obama have said the new arms deal should cut stockpiles below the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, under which both sides are to cut their arsenals to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads by 2012. SORT will remain in force another three years.

Unlike the intrusive verification systems created by START, SORT only covers operationally deployed warheads and not those in storage.

(Reuters, AP)