Top US senator doubts START treaty approval in 2010

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Prospects for US Senate ratification of a landmark nuclear treaty with Russia this year dimmed Tuesday as a top lawmaker said he doubted the pact could be approved before 2011.

The chamber's number-two Republican, Jon Kyl, said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had telephoned him Monday to discuss the fate of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in a year-end "lame duck" session.

"When Majority Leader Harry Reid asked me if I thought the treaty could be considered in the lame duck session, I replied I did not think so given the combination of other work Congress must do and the complex and unresolved issues related to START and modernization," Kyl said in a statement.

"This is a very complicated process. It cannot be done overnight," Kyl later told reporters asking about the treaty, one of President Barack Obama's top foreign policy priorities.

"I really do appreciate the sort of last-minute efforts by the administration to brief us on what the current thinking is. What they discussed with us was in good faith, and they acknowledged that the issues we're raising were valid, but there's still a lot to be done," he added.

The START treaty -- signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Obama at an elaborate ceremony in Prague in April -- restricts each nation to a maximum of 1,550 deployed warheads, a cut of about 30 percent from a limit set in 2002.

US Senate ratification requires 67 votes out of 100.

Republicans, who have been generally critical of the pact, will have 47 votes when the next Congress convenes in January, up from 41, after routing Obama's Democratic allies in November 2 elections.

© 2010 AFP

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