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Obama assures Medvedev that START treaty is a priority

YOKOHAMA, Japan - President Barack Obama, capping a far-flung Asian trip of mixed results, assured Russian President Dimitri Medvedev Sunday that getting the Senate to ratify the new START treaty is a "top priority" of his administration.

"I reiterated my commitment to getting the START treaty done during the lame-duck session," Obama said, noting that Congress returns next week for its postelection session.

In talks with Medvedev on the sidelines of the summit of the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Obama also reiterated his support for bringing Russia into the World Trade Organization, calling Russia "an excellent partner."

The START treaty, which has been pending in the Senate for months, has drawn resistance, principally from minority Republicans. A congressional aide briefed on White House plans for getting it ratified said this week that the White House was adding $4.1 billion in funding for the U.S. nuclear arsenal in an effort to pick up the necessary votes. The additional money would come on top of an additional $10 billion the administration had already agreed to over 10 years.

Asked during a picture-taking session about whether his administration was putting more money on the table for the nuclear program, Obama declined to answer.

He did say, on another matter, that he believes Medvedev is bringing about reforms in the former Soviet Union and is moving the country forward. He said he supports Medvedev's pursuit of membership in the World Trade Organization - a point the Russian leader reinforced as he and Obama appeared briefly before reporters and camera crews. Obama said he is "working closely" to achieve that end.

Both Obama and Medvedev touted a close working relationship and friendship. Obama extended thanks to Moscow for cooperation on Afghanistan and on a host of international issues ranging from the Middle East to Sudan.

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