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Strategic arms deal may be drafted before Obama visit - Kremlin

MOSCOW, June 2 (RIA Novosti) - A new draft strategic arms reduction deal to replace the START 1 treaty may be ready before U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Moscow on July 6-8, a Russian presidential spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

"We are working on it," Natalia Timakova said.

The Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty (START 1), which expires in December 2009, obliges Russia and the United States to reduce nuclear warheads to 6,000 and their delivery vehicles to 1,600 each. In 2002, a follow-up agreement on strategic offensive arms reduction was concluded in Moscow. The agreement, known as the Moscow Treaty, envisioned cuts to 1,700-2,200 warheads by December 2012.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama agreed during their London meeting in early April on an immediate start to talks on a new strategic arms reduction treaty.

The team of U.S. negotiators at the current talks is led by Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller, while the Russian delegation is headed by Anatoly Antonov, director of the Foreign Ministry's Department of Security and Disarmament.

The first round of full-format negotiations was held in Moscow on May 19-21, and the sides described it as a success. They agreed to submit the results of work on a new treaty at a Russian-U.S. summit in Moscow in early July.

The second round of talks is being held in Geneva.

A Russian diplomatic source told RIA Novosti on Tuesday that the negotiations are being conducted in a "constructive atmosphere."

"The second round of talks opened yesterday at the Russian mission [in Geneva], and they are continuing today at the U.S. mission,' the source said.

"The sides are focusing on the issues earlier outlined by the Russian president and the foreign minister, and they are trying to understand one another," he added.

According to a report published by the U.S. State Department in April, as of January 1 Russia had 3,909 nuclear warheads and 814 delivery vehicles, including ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and strategic bombers.

The same report said the United States had 5,576 warheads and 1,198 delivery vehicles.

Russia, which proposed a new arms reduction agreement with the U.S. in 2005, expects Washington to agree on a deal that would restrict not only the numbers of nuclear warheads, but also place limits on all existing kinds of delivery vehicles.

"The final result of the talks should certainly be a step forward compared to the current regime of limitations," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier said.