US Senate to open START debate: Aide

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The US Senate is "likely" to begin debate on a landmark nuclear arms control treaty with Russia as early as Wednesday, a top Democratic aide said Tuesday.

Lawmakers are "likely to begin debate as early as tomorrow" on the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), a spokesman for Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Jim Manley, said by email.

US President Barack Obama has pressed the Senate to ratify the accord, a key part of his efforts to "reset" relations with Russia, this year.

Obama's Democratic allies currently control 58 Senate seats, and need nine of the 42 Republicans to reach the 67 votes needed for approval -- but that number rises to 14 when a new Congress arrives in January.

The agreement restricts each nation 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.

The agreement, which has broad US public support, would also return US inspectors who have been unable to monitor Russia's arsenal since the agreement's predecessor lapsed in December 2009.

The Republican point-man on the treaty, Senator Jon Kyl, has publicly said that he has not yet made up his mind, but his office has bombarded journalists with news articles critical of the accord and opinion pieces urging its defeat.

© 2010 AFP

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