US Senate panel approves nuclear treaty with Russia

US B-52 bomber - file photo One heavy bomber counts as one nuclear warhead under the new treaty

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A treaty between Russia and the United States which would cut by a third the number of nuclear warheads each country can hold has been passed by an influential committee of the US Senate.

The Senate foreign relations committee adopted the treaty by a vote of 14-4.

US President Barack Obama has made ratification of the Start treaty one of his foreign policy priorities.

The treaty is likely to face stiff opposition from Republicans when it goes to a vote in the full Senate.

President Obama appealed to both Democrats and Republicans to support the Strategic Arms Reduction (Start) treaty.

Missile defence concerns

Start Quote

I encourage members on both sides of the aisle to give this agreement the fair hearing and bipartisan support that it deserves”

End Quote President Barack Obama

"I encourage members on both sides of the aisle to give this agreement the fair hearing and bipartisan support that it deserves, and that has been given to past agreements of its kind," he said.

Mr Obama and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, signed the treaty in Prague in April.

It commits the former Cold War enemies to each reduce the number of deployed strategic warheads to 1,550 - 30% lower than the previous ceiling.

Senate Republicans worry that Moscow could use the deal to limit US plans for missile defence.

However, the Pentagon says these concerns are groundless.

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