Ratification of START nuclear treaty hailed

23rd December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Nations on Thursday hailed the US ratification of a key treaty slashing US and Russian nuclear arsenals as a boost to international security in a new age of cooperation between the Cold War foes.

The START treaty restricts the two nations to a maximum of 1,550 deployed warheads each, a cut of about 30 percent from a limit set in 2002, and 800 launchers and bombers. The Russian parliament could ratify it this week.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Wednesday's ratification by the US Senate was "an important step towards our long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons" and called on Russia to ratify the treaty as soon as possible.

"The United States and Russia together have 90 percent of the world's nuclear arsenals and this treaty will contribute to increased trust and security for all," Hague said in a statement.

France welcomed the move but called also for the ratification of a treaty banning atomic blast tests.

The US ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty after a months-long political battle was "an essential step towards this accord coming into force," foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.

"Reducing Russian and American nuclear arsenals is indeed a disarmament priority, as these two countries still possess 95 percent of the world's nuclear weapons," he said.

"France also calls for the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) so that this treaty, essential for disarmament, can come into effect," Valero added.

The CTBT, which bans nuclear blasts for military or civilian purposes, was drawn up in 1996 and has so far been signed by a total 182 countries and ratified by 153.

But nine key states, namely China, North Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the United States, still need to ratify it before it can come into force.

Washington signed the treaty in 1996, but has yet to ratify it, although US President Barack Obama has said that Washington is committed to doing so.

In Brussels, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the ratification would "make a significant contribution to Euro-Atlantic security."

"The foreseen reduction of US and Russian strategic nuclear weapons will pave the way for progress on conventional and nuclear arms control initiatives that would further enhance security in the Euro-Atlantic area and beyond," he added in a statement late Wednesday.

Rasmussen and European leaders had rallied behind US President Barack Obama at a NATO summit in Lisbon last month, pressing the US Senate to pass the treaty amid reluctance among Republicans to approve it.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini described the US approval of START as being of "historic magnitude."

"This is a concrete step forward for nuclear disarmament in line with a vision of a safer world without nuclear weapons," he said in a statement.

"It's a victory for everyone," he said, adding that the ratification showed "a new climate of trust and cooperation between the United States and Russia."

Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said the treaty would "help advance weapons of mass destruction threat-reduction projects on which Canada collaborates with Russia and the United States."

© 2010 AFP

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