Russia's Duma to hold first vote on US arms pact Friday
Russia's State Duma lower house of parliament will on Friday hold the first of three required votes on the new START nuclear disarmament accord with the United States, a top lawmaker said Thursday.
"This procedure is in line with Russia's legislation and is provided for by Duma regulations," two Russian news agencies quoted foreign affairs chairman Konstantin Kosachev as telling reporters.
He said that Friday's vote may also allow Russian lawmakers to adopt their own non-binding amendments to the pact, just as the US Senate had done earlier this to ease Republican concerns with the historic agreement.
However, Kosachev contradicted other ruling United Russia party members who said that the chamber may hold emergency sessions past its final Friday meeting to ensure that Russia enters the new year with a formal treaty in hand.
"As far as further work on the treaty's ratification is concerned, Kosachev believes that it will continue after the Duma returns to work in January," the Interfax news agency said.
The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) was passed after a months-long political battle by the US Senate on Wednesday in a 71-26 vote.
Serving as a centerpiece of US efforts to "reset" lagging relations with Russia, the treaty slashes the two sides' nuclear arsenals to 1,550 deployed warheads per side and leaves each country with no more than 800 launchers and bombers.
The treaty also restores vital inspections that ended when the preceding START agreement expired one year ago.
© 2010 AFP