Key US Senate panel delays vote on arms treaty with Russia

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US Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair John Kerry announced Tuesday that the panel would delay until mid-September its vote on approving a new nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia.

Kerry said he hoped the committee's action, which would send the accord to the full Senate for ratification, would happen "expeditiously" after lawmakers return from a month-long August recess.

Approval by the panel would set the stage for action by the entire US Senate, where 67 votes are needed for ratification, a process US President Barack Obama has said he would like to see completed in 2010.

Obama's Democratic allies and their two independent allies control only 59 votes, meaning the treaty's backers will need to rally at least eight Republicans to approve the pact.

Some Republican senators have indicated they are inclined to back the pact but say they worry about the effects on the US nuclear deterrent and that they want to energize work at national nuclear laboratories to ensure the safety and reliability of the US arsenal.

Some Democrats have accused the president's political foes of trying to deny him a major diplomatic victory before the November mid-term elections.

The accord, which Obama and Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed in a landmark ceremony in Prague in April, commits the two former Cold War foes to slashing their nuclear arsenals.

Each nation will be allowed a maximum of 1,550 deployed warheads, about 30 percent lower than a limit set in 2002. They are also restricted to 700 air, ground and submarine-launched nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles.

© 2010 AFP

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