France says ratify nuclear test ban treaty after START

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Nuclear-armed France on Thursday welcomed the US Senate's approval of a treaty slashing US and Russian nuclear arsenals but called also for the ratification of a treaty banning atomic blast tests.

The US ratification Wednesday of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) after a months-long political battle is "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 said.

START restricts the former Cold War foes 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.

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.

© 2010 AFP

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