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U.S.-Russia deal to reduce nuclear weapons

WASHINGTON - The United States and Russia reached a breakthrough agreement yesterday for a treaty to reduce their nuclear arsenals, the most significant pact in a generation and an important milestone in the decades-long quest to lower the risk of global nuclear war.

After long and trying negotiations, President Barack Obama and President Dmitry Medve-dev are to sign the treaty in two weeks in Prague, once final technical details are worked out, officials in Washington and Moscow said. The accord is expected to cut the number of long-range nuclear weapons held by each side to about 1,500, and it raises hopes for further disarmament in the years ahead.

The deal is seen as sealing an increased level of trust and cooperation between the United States and Russia, who possess the vast majority of the world's nuclear arms and have labored under strained relations in recent years.

Obama and Medvedev are expected to seal the deal when they talk by telephone this week, setting the stage for a White House campaign to win Senate ratification. The treaty also must win approval by the Russian Duma, and the two processes are likely to take months.

Robert S. Norris, a longtime analyst of nuclear arsenals, said Senate ratification would not be easy. "Hard negotiations with the Russians will now be followed by hard negotiations with Republican senators to achieve ratification," Norris said.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said there had been discussions with the Czech government about holding a signing ceremony in Prague - where Obama last April declared his vision of a nuclear-free world.

Czech officials announced that Prague would host the signing. They did not give a date, but Russian and U.S. officials said it was expected to be April 8.

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