Obama, Medvedev to meet in Copenhagen on START

President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will likely meet Friday in Copenhagen for a last-ditch round of face-to-face negotiations in hopes of reaching a nuclear arms control accord by the end of the year, an Obama administration official said. U.S. and Russian negotiators are close to a deal but have become bogged down on ballistic missile verification issues. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday blamed the U.S. for slowing down the talks.  At issue is whether the U.S. will continue to have access to Russian missile-flight data.  The Russians are trying to develop new missiles to replace Soviet-era SS-18s and SS-19s. 

The Russians, with only about 620 nuclear-weapons systems in use, wanted a much lower number, about 550, said Ploughshares Fund President Joseph Cirincione.  A U.S. official said negotiators have zeroed in on a number between 800 and 550, and that issue could soon be settled. But the sides remain far apart on the missile-verification matter. If the presidents can narrow their differences, they could order negotiators in Geneva to stay at it through the weekend, in hopes of a deal by Christmas.