Colin Powell urges US Senate to ratify START

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Former US secretary of state Colin Powell called Wednesday on Congress to ratify the new START treaty, joining three other former Republican secretaries of state in supporting the arms pact.

"I fully support this treaty," Powell said after meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office.

Powell said he was joining Republican predecessors George Shultz, James Baker and Henry Kissinger in an op-ed piece in Thursday's editions of Washington Post that endorses the treaty.

"I hope that the Senate will move quickly," said Powell, who was secretary of state during former president George W. Bush's first term in office.

A former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Powell emphasized that the proposed cuts in the US and Russian nuclear arsenals would strengthen US national security, not weaken it, as some Republicans fear.

Shultz, Baker and Kissinger attended a White House meeting last month intended to counter opposition to the treaty among Senate Republicans.

The 42 Republican senators vowed Tuesday to block ratification, with Senator John Kyl, who is leading the Republican opposition, insisting there is not enough time to review the treaty before a new Congress is seated in January.

Republicans, who will gain senate seats in the new Congress, say they need to be sure that the US nuclear arsenal will be modernized and that the treaty will not hamper US missile defense efforts.

Obama's Democrats control 58 of the 100 Senate seats and need two Republican votes to ensure a filibuster-proof majority, but need a two-thirds majority to ratify START.

The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty restricts each nation to a maximum of 1,550 deployed warheads, a cut of about 30 percent from a limit set in 2002.

The agreement, a top Obama foreign policy initiative, replaces a previous accord that lapsed in December 2009.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told CNN in an interview to be broadcast Wednesday that Russia is likely to build up its nuclear arsenal if the United States fails to ratify the new START treaty signed earlier this year.

© 2010 AFP

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