U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev have signed a new major nuclear arms treaty that cuts each country's arsenal by about 30 percent.
The pact signed Thursday in Prague in the Czech Republic leaves each country with about 1,500 strategic nuclear weapons. Mr. Obama calls it "an important milestone for nuclear security and non-proliferation." Mr. Medvedev says the two sides accomplished what at one time seemed impossible. The Russian leader also called the signing a historic event that could lead to a new chapter of bilateral cooperation.
The new pact replaces the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. It comes after nearly a year of slow-moving and sometimes contentious negotiations. The U.S. Senate and Russia's parliament must both ratify the treaty for it to take effect.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid predicts the treaty will pass, saying there is no need to play politics with national security. But Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Senate must determine if the treaty is verifiable and does not hurt the country's ability to defend itself.
Presidents Obama and Medvedev also said Thursday Iran is facing stronger sanctions if it keeps refusing to suspend uranium enrichment and open negotiations on its suspect nuclear program. Mr. Medvedev said "we cannot turn a blind eye to this issue." Mr. Obama said the United States will not tolerate any actions by Iran that risk an arms race in the Middle East. President Obama, speaking later to reporters, said he expects to secure what he calls "strong, tough" new sanctions against Iran over its refusal to halt nuclear enrichment activities. Mr. Medvedev said he would back sanctions that, in his words, "motivate certain parties to behave properly."
Diplomats from the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany met in New York Thursday to discuss Iran and its nuclear activities.