Russia is prepared to "significantly" cut its nuclear arsenal if a deal is reached with the United States, the head of the Russian General Staff told the Interfax news agency on Thursday.

"The Russian president, the commander-in-chief, voiced this position in Helsinki. That''s why I believe we are able to significantly cut both the warheads and their carriers...," Nikolai Makarov told the agency in an interview.

If conditions were right, Russia''s cuts could even take weapons levels below those foreseen in a 2002 accord known as the Moscow Treaty, he added.

The comments came as Russian officials prepared to sit down for talks with their US counterparts in Rome on Friday aimed at creating a successor to another nuclear accord, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expires this year.

Russian officials have given out mixed signals on the country''s readiness to respond to a call by US President Barack Obama for major arms cuts and eventually a nuclear-free world.

On Monday President Dmitry Medvedev stressed on a visit to Helsinki the importance of arms reduction, suggesting both Moscow and Washington could cut their weapons stocks.

"In this treaty, which should replace the START treaty, it is necessary to limit the delivery systems of the nuclear warheads and not only the quantity of warheads themselves -- taking into account intercontinental ballistic missiles, and submarine-based ballistic missiles and heavy bombers that carry nuclear means," he said.