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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 May, 2003, 13:23 GMT 14:23 UK
Russian Duma ratifies US arms pact
US Poseidon sea-launched ballistic missile
Russia's upper house must still approve the treaty

Russia's lower house of parliament has ratified a nuclear arms reduction treaty with the US that cuts the nuclear arsenals of both countries by two-thirds.

It came after a delay of nearly two months, after Russian deputies postponed the vote in protest at the US-led war on Iraq.

A total of 294 deputies in the Duma voted in favour of the agreement, with 134 against and no abstentions.

The US Senate has already approved the accord.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday called the treaty "an important document in the sphere of strategic stability".

He and US President George Bush signed the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (Sort) - also known as the Moscow Treaty - following their summit in the Russian capital last May.

1972: US and USSR sign first arms pact, but weapons arsenals keep growing
1986: Soviet stockpile reaches its height
1987: Deal agreed to eliminate short and medium-range weapons
1987-1993: USSR slashes short and medium-range weapons by half, the US reduces its arsenal by 72%
1993: US signs a treaty to cut strategic long-range warheads with the nuclear states of the former Soviet Union

It calls for both nations to cut their strategic nuclear arsenals by about two-thirds - from around 6,000 warheads at present to under 2,200 - by 2012.

However, the weapons do not have to be destroyed, only taken out of use.

The Moscow Treaty rendered the previous nuclear arms agreement, Start II (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), signed between the two countries in 1993, largely redundant.

Russia withdrew from Start II after the US unilaterally withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty to work on its missile defence system last year.

Wednesday's ratification came as US Secretary of State Colin Powell was in Moscow for talks with Mr Putin and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

Last year's signing of the treaty signing was hailed by the US as finally banishing the legacy of the Cold War.

However Russia's opposition to the war in Iraq has led to renewed friction between the two countries.

Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, must also approve the treaty for it to take effect, but that vote is expected to be a formality.

Q&A: The death of the Cold War
14 May 02  |  World

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