Germany wants to rescue arms pact dropped by Russia

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BERLIN, Sep 12 (Reuters) Germany is launching an initiative to rescue the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty which Russia turned its back on earlier this year, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said today.

''I will be just as annoyed as you if this treaty is suspended,'' Steinmeier told members of the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament.

''We cannot permit a treaty like this one aimed at limiting conventional arms, one which was developed over a long period of time, to be scrapped,'' he said.

Steinmeier said Germany would host a conference in October to discuss the CFE, a landmark post-Cold War pact limiting conventional military strength on either side of the old Iron Curtain.

Foreign Ministry officials said high-ranking officials from CFE member states would use the meeting to discuss the future of the treaty after Russia suspended its participation in it earlier this year.

The goal of the meeting would be to launch a process aimed at protecting the CFE, the officials said.

Signed in 1990 and updated in 1999, the treaty limits the number of tanks, artillery, aircraft and helicopters stationed between the Atlantic and the Ural mountains in Russia, as well as in eastern and central Europe.

Russia has said the treaty was no longer effective because NATO countries have failed to ratify the latest version of the treaty.

NATO members have declined to ratify it until Russia withdraws all its troops from ex-Soviet Moldova and Georgia, as it pledged to do in 1999 when the pact was signed.

Russia has said its decision to suspend compliance was also linked, in part, to a US plan to station elements of a missile defence shield in central Europe.

Moscow says the shield is a threat to its security. It has proposed an alternative, collective defence scheme that it says would involve it sharing data and infrastructure with the United States and other NATO states.

Reuters SZ VP0302

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