Page last updated at 21:49 GMT, Saturday, 12 December 2009

Talks between Russia and US on nuclear pact extended

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and US President Barack Obama in Moscow
Russia and the US reached an outline arms agreement in July

Talks between the US and Russia in Geneva on forging a new nuclear arms reduction treaty are being extended, the Kremlin has announced.

Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev agreed by phone to continue work on finding a successor to the Cold War-era Start I treaty, it said.

Negotiations in Geneva had been "intensive and purposeful", it added.

Start I expired on 5 December but the two countries agreed to continue observing it pending a new agreement.

"The heads of state agreed to give the order to continue active work and not to reduce the high level and tempo of co-operation, with the aim of securing decisive agreements on all issues," the Kremlin said in its statement.

Graph showing US and Russian nuclear weapon stockpiles

No reasons have been given for the delay but unnamed diplomats quoted by Reuters news agency are talking about finding a deal by the end of the year.

Moscow made no reference to a date in its latest statement.

Start I was signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and George Bush Senior in the final days of the Soviet Union. It led to deep cuts in nuclear arsenals on both sides.

Under a joint understanding signed in July, deployed nuclear warheads should be cut to below 1,700 on each side within seven years of a new treaty - a huge cut on Soviet-era levels.

Nonetheless, between them, the two countries will retain enough firepower to destroy the world several times over.

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