US, Russia, will sign nuclear treaty in April: report

MOSCOW: Russia and the United States will sign a new nuclear disarmament treaty in early April in the Czech capital Prague, Russian daily newspaper Kommersant reported Saturday, citing a diplomatic source.

"The new nuclear disarmament treaty is ready," said the source, who talk part in Friday's talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the matter.

"The negotiators in Geneva are just matching up the formulations, given the nuances of Russian and English," the source added.

Russian and US negotiators have been in intense talks to agree a successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) which expired in December but have so far failed to reach a final accord.

US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed last July the new treaty should slash the number of warheads on either side to between 1,500 and 1,675.

Russian media reports have already said country's two leaders would like to sign the final agreement in an Eastern European capital before the United States hosts a nuclear security summit from April 12-13.

Kommersant's source was sure that this would happen -- and that the treaty would be signed in Prague, as the US side had rejected Kiev as a venue.

The new treaty also acknowledged a link with the planned US missile defence facilities in Eastern Europe, the source told Kommersant.

The New York Times reported last week that talks had hit a hitch over just this issue. It said Obama was frustrated that Medvedev was linking the disarmament treaty with the dispute over the missile defence system.

On Friday, Clinton said Russia and the United States were "on the brink" of signing a new nuclear disarmament treaty after resolving all outstanding issues.

Lavrov concurred, saying: "We believe that in the nearest time we can count on the finishing of negotiations on a new agreement."

The United States currently has some 2,200 nuclear warheads, while Russia is believed to have about 3,000.