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Obama, Medvedev renew U.S.-Russian ties

MOSCOW, July 6 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed Monday to reduce their countries' nuclear missile arsenals in a major step forward for U.S.-Russian relations.

Both leaders signed an agreement after a meeting in Moscow on Monday; it foresees a reduction of warheads from 2,200 to a range of between 1,500 and 1,675, and of carrier missiles from 1,600 to a range of between 500 and 1,100, according to Voice of America. The agreement empowers negotiators from both countries to find a successor to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which runs out in December.

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"(We've) taken important steps forward to increase nuclear security and to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. This starts with the reduction of our own nuclear arsenals," Obama said.

Medvedev said the Kremlin was pursuing a fresh start in relations with Washington -- also in joint security initiatives. The two leaders signed an agreement allowing the U.S. military to fly over Russian territory with supplies and materials en route to Afghanistan. Although it has no military presence there, Moscow says it wants to help stabilize Afghanistan.

"We hope that as a result of our today's work, tomorrow's work and full-scale bilateral communication, we will close a number of complicated pages in the history of Russian-American relations and will open a new page," Medvedev said, according to the Itar-Tass news agency.

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U.S.-Russian relations had suffered over the past years, with differences over human rights, the independence of the former Serbian province of Kosovo, NATO's eastward expansion, a U.S.-planned missile defense system in Eastern Europe and last year's Russian-Georgian war.

Obama has promised to shake up U.S. foreign policy by trying to improve ties with the Kremlin, and he has signaled a willingness to talk about the missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. His predecessor, George W. Bush, had pushed for the system to defend against possible Iranian nuclear missiles.

While both leaders did not announce a breakthrough on missile defense, the Kremlin authorized its experts to analyze the ballistic threat from Iran that would be shared with Washington.

Obama is due to meet Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and representatives of Russian human-rights organizations on Tuesday. Later in the week, he will travel to Italy for this year's Group of Eight summit.

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