Russia-US treaty clears last Senate test vote
A landmark nuclear arms control treaty between the United States and Russia easily cleared a last procedural hurdle in the US Senate on Tuesday and stayed on track for final ratification.
Lawmakers voted 67-28 to end debate on the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), one of Obama's top foreign policy priorities, setting the stage for a final ballot expected Wednesday.
"We are on the brink of writing the next chapter in the 40-year history of wrestling with the threat of nuclear weapons," Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair John Kerry, a Democrat, said after the vote.
Eleven Republicans sided with Obama's Democratic and Independent allies, ensuring that the accord would net the two-thirds majority needed for ratification, while five lawmakers were absent.
Obama has made the treaty a lynchpin of his efforts to "reset" relations with Russia, looking to lock in Moscow's cooperation to confront Iran over its suspect nuclear program and back the US-led war in Afghanistan.
The agreement -- which had the support of virtually every living US foreign policy or national security heavyweight -- restricts each nation to a maximum of 1,550 deployed warheads, a cut of about 30 percent from a limit set in 2002, and 800 launchers and bombers.
The accord would also return US inspectors who have been unable to monitor Russia's arsenal since the treaty's predecessor lapsed in December 2009.
© 2010 AFP