Russia''s lower house ratifies US nuclear pact

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Vinay Shukla

Moscow, Jan 25 (PTI) Russia''s lower house ofparliament today ratified a key nuclear treaty signed lastApril by US President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpartDmitry Medvedev, a move likely to boost arms controlnegotiations between the two former Cold-War foes.

The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) isto replace defunct treaty signed between the US and ex-USSR atthe height of the Cold War.

The State Duma, the Lower House of the Russianlegislature, approved the New Start treaty by 350 votes with96 deputies voting against and one abstaining.

Two main opposition - Communist and LiberalDemocratic parties voted against the treaty, which was backedby ruling United Russia and left-leaning Kremlin loyalist "AJust Russia'' parties.

Before giving its approval in the final and thirdreading, the State Duma made several amendments to thedocument.

One of them ensures that Moscow can step out of thetreaty if it feels that the US missile defence plan in Europeposes a threat to Russia''s national security.

It has also legally linked offensive strategic armsand missile defence, which was one of the stumbling blocks inthe long-running negotiations between Moscow and Washington.

The new pact slashes the Russian and US nucleararsenals to a maximum of 1,550 nuclear warheads, down from thecurrent ceiling of 2,200.

It will allow Russia to take its ageing weapons out ofcommission while keeping parity with the United States for thedecade that the treaty remains in effect.

The US Senate ratified the new arms deal with Russiaon December 22, 2010, but added several amendments to theresolution on ratification, including a demand to build up USglobal missile shield.

Before coming into force new START has to beratified by the upper house -the Federation Council, whichcould vote on it tomorrow at its first session in the NewYear.

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