US, Russia ink pact to cut N-arsenal
Prague, April 8
Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev signed the pact at a ceremony in the mediaeval Prague Castle after talks that covered nuclear security, Iran's atomic programme and an uprising in the Central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan, where both major powers have military bases.
The treaty will cut strategic nuclear arsenals deployed by the former Cold War foes by 30 per cent within seven years, but leave each with enough to destroy the other.
Obama said the agreement had “ended the drift” in relations between Moscow and Washington and sent a strong signal that the two powers that together possess 90 per cent of all atomic weapons were taking their disarmament obligations seriously.
“We are working together at the United Nations Security Council to pass strong sanctions on Iran and we will not tolerate actions that flout the NPT,” he said, referring to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. “My expectation is that we are going to be able to secure strong, tough sanctions on Iran this Spring,” he added.
Medvedev said he regretted Tehran had not reacted to constructive proposals on its nuclear programme and the Security Council might have to take further sanctions, but they should be “smart” and not bring disaster on the Iranian people.
“Today we had a very open, frank and straightforward discussion of what can be done and cannot be done,” the Russian President said, adding he gave Obama a list of Moscow’s limits.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov declined to detail the list but told reporters a total embargo on deliveries of refined oil products to Iran, for example, would be unacceptable
since it would cause a “huge shock for the whole society and the whole population”.
The situation in Kyrgyzstan, where opposition protesters forced out President Kurmanbek Bakiyev on Wednesday, thrust its way on to the agenda as both Washington and Moscow have military bases in the poor Central Asian state. The US base at Manas is vital for supplying NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin effectively recognised the interim Kyrgyz government formed by opposition leader Roza Otunbayeva on Thursday, speaking to her by telephone, his spokesman said. The State Department declined immediate comment on whether Washington would follow suit. — Reuters