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Obama, Medvedev sign nuclear arms treaty

US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev have signed a new treaty aimed at reducing the two countries’ nuclear arsenals.

The treaty, signed in the Czech Republic’s capital, Prague, is a successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, also known as START, which expired in December.

The new agreement requires Washington and Moscow to reduce their nuclear arsenals by about one-third.

It will also limit the number of deployed launchers, ballistic missiles and heavy bombers.

In a news conference after signing the treaty, Obama hailed the treaty as a “historic” event while Medvedev said the nuclear arms deal would open a new page in relations between the two countries.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) welcomed the signing of the treaty.

“Reducing the role and numbers of nuclear weapons is a positive step towards a safe and peaceful world free of nuclear weapons which can impact positively on nuclear non-proliferation efforts,” IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said in a statement.

The treaty must be approved by the Russian Duma and the US Senate to take effect

Obama and Medvedev are also scheduled to discuss the US missile system in Europe, among other regional and international issues.

The Kremlin said in a Thursday statement that the treaty would only be “capable of life” if Washington is restrained in its pursuit of missile defense.

The US and Russia currently have a combined total of over 20,000 atomic warheads. The nuclear arms are roughly equally divided between the two countries.

The new pact has a direct link between offensive nuclear weapons and US planned missile defense system in Europe.

Russia has warned that Moscow could opt out if it feels threatened by the US missile plans.

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