The U.S. Senate plans to hold hearings on ratifying a new signed arms reduction deal with Russia in April-May, a leading U.S. senator has said.
A signed Russian-U.S. treaty has to be ratified by the two states' parliaments to go into effect.
"We intend to begin hearings between Easter [April 4] and Memorial Day [May 31] on the historical record of strategic arms control," Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry said in a statement.
START I, the cornerstone of a post-Cold War arms control setup, expired on December 5 2009.
Russia and the United States have been negotiating a strategic arms reduction pact since the two countries' presidents met in April last year, but the work on the document has dragged on, with U.S. plans for missile defense in Europe a particular sticking point.
U.S. President Barack Obama discussed the treaty on Wednesday morning with Kerry and Senator Richard Lugar, the senior Republican on the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee. The two senators will play the key role in the document's ratification.
"Once the treaty and its associated documents are completed and submitted to the Senate, Senator Lugar and I look forward to holding hearings and giving the treaty immediate and careful attention," Kerry said.
He said the goal is to ratify the treaty by the end of this year.
"I assured the president that we strongly support his efforts, and that if the final negotiations and all that follows go smoothly, we will work to ensure that the Senate can act on the treaty this year," the U.S. senator said.
A Kremlin source who had requested anonymity said on Wednesday the two countries had reached agreement on all the documents for a new strategic arms pact, which could be signed in Prague. White House officials indicated, however, that Moscow may have jumped the gun in making the announcement.
AFP said on Wednesday that the treaty might be signed in Prague, after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Czech Republic's neighbor Slovakia to take place on April 7.
"We may logically assume that it will happen this way," the agency quoted Vladimir Fedorov, citing a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Prague, as saying.
WASHINGTON, March 24 (RIA Novosti)