NATO cheers US approval of nuclear pact

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The US ratification of a key nuclear arms control treaty will open the door to greater cooperation between the West and Russia and enhance international security, according to the head of NATO.

"I very much welcome the US Senate's ratification of the New START Treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation, which will make a significant contribution to Euro-Atlantic security," said Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

"The foreseen reduction of US and Russian strategic nuclear weapons will pave the way for progress on conventional and nuclear arms control initiatives that would further enhance security in the Euro-Atlantic area and beyond," he added in a statement late Wednesday.

Rasmussen and European leaders had rallied behind US President Barack Obama at a NATO summit in Lisbon last month, pressing the US Senate to pass the treaty amid reluctance among Republicans to approve it.

The NATO chief recalled that Russia agreed to explore the possibility of joining a missile shield aimed at protecting Europe's population from rogue attacks.

"NATO nations and Russia agreed that we do not represent a threat to one another, but instead strive towards a strategic partnership," he said.

"The New START Treaty will create opportunities for even greater cooperation in the future and enhance international security."

START would restrict each of the former Cold War foes 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.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also welcomed the US ratification but said Moscow needed time to study the US documents before doing the same as there may have been amendments to a draft.

© 2010 AFP

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