Russia applauds US vote to back nuclear arms treaty

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Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev has welcomed US ratification of a landmark treaty to cut nuclear arsenals and says he hopes Russia's parliament will ratify it too.

The US Congress approved the New Start treaty on Wednesday, when reluctant Republicans were won over.

The Speaker of Russia's State Duma (lower house), Boris Gryzlov, said MPs might approve the pact on Friday.

Under the deal, Russia and the US will cut deployed nuclear warheads by 30%.

President Medvedev hopes that the Duma and the upper house, the Federation Council, "will be ready to consider and ratify that document", a Kremlin spokeswoman said.

US President Barack Obama and Mr Medvedev had "agreed to synchronise the ratification process", Natalya Timakova added.

Extra Russian checks

Russia's upper house will not approve it before the new year. Mr Gryzlov said the Russian parliament would first check that the US Senate's ratification motion had not changed the text of the agreement.

Earlier, President Obama said the treaty was the most important such deal in almost 20 years.

The Senate approved it by 71 votes to 26 after months of wrangling.

"This is the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades and it will make us safer and reduce our nuclear arsenals along with Russia," Mr Obama said.

He said the vote also showed that the US political process was not doomed to "endless gridlock".

"The strong bi-partisan vote in the Senate sends a powerful signal to the world that Republicans and Democrats stand together on behalf of our security," he said.

Thirteen Republican Senators voted with the Democrats during Wednesday's vote.

However top Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, John McCain and Jon Kyl, had opposed ratification saying the treaty could compromise security and the US missile defence strategy.

Russian 're-set'

Correspondents say the ratification will be seen as a foreign policy success for Mr Obama.

He has argued that ratification of New Start is vital to US national security and made the agreement a key plank of the president's much-heralded "re-set" of relations with Russia.

After the vote, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement: "A responsible partnership between the world's two largest nuclear powers that limits our nuclear arsenals while maintaining strategic stability is imperative to promoting global security."

The New Start treaty, which will replace its lapsed predecessor, Start (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), was signed by the two presidents in April 2010.

It trims US and Russian nuclear arsenals to 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads - a cut of about 30% from a limit set eight years ago.

The treaty would also allow each side visually to inspect the other's nuclear capability, with the aim of verifying how many warheads each missile carries.

A previous inspection regime - part of the old Start treaty - expired a year ago.

In addition, there will be legally binding limits on the number of warheads and missiles that can be deployed on land, on submarines, and on bombers, at any one time.

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