WASHINGTON (CN) - A new and far-reaching arms control agreement was struck Friday between the United States and Russia, concluding a year of negotiations and representing the most comprehensive nuclear arms cuts in more than two decades. At the news conference announcing the agreement, Obama said, "Nuclear weapons represent both the darkest days of the Cold War and the most troubling threats of our time."
The deal -- sealed after a morning call between the nations' two presidents -- will lower the nuclear arms ceiling by more than a quarter, and cut the amount of permitted weapon launchers by half. And it will establish a robust inspection system to verify the reductions.
The agreement does not restrict the United States from its controversial plans to build a missile shield in Eastern Europe.
"The United States and Russia, the two largest nuclear powers in the world, also send a clear signal that we intend to lead," Obama said, and he briefly added that he hopes Iran will uphold its own commitments.
The treaty is scheduled to be signed April 8 in Prague, the Czech Republic's capital.
Obama has called for a world without nuclear weapons, but it is widely agreed that the United States and Russia, which hold the vast majority of the world's nuclear weapons, must cut their stockpiles before other nations cut their own.
More than 40 nations are scheduled to meet in Washington to address the risk of nuclear arms falling into the hands of terrorists, and to work toward securing all nuclear materials.
The question still remains whether Congress will be receptive to the deal, but Obama and Democratic lawmakers said they are confident.
"We can't squander this opportunity to reset both our relations with Russia and our role as the world leader on nuclear nonproliferation," Kerry said. "As soon as the president sends the agreement to the Senate, we will appeal to all our colleagues to set aside preconceptions and partisanship and consider the treaty on its merits."
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