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Obama pursues nuke reductions

THE Obama administration, reversing the Bush administration's limited interest in nuclear disarmament, is gearing up for early negotiations with Russia on a new treaty that would sharply reduce stockpiles of nuclear warheads.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has notified Congress and her staff that she intends to get started quickly on talks with the Russians, who have voiced interest in recent weeks in settling on a new treaty that would provide cutbacks in arsenals on both sides.

The 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) expires at the end of the year. It limited the United States and Russia to 6,000 nuclear warheads each.

The American stockpile is believed to be about 2,300 warheads, and the Russians' even lower.

Clinton's spokesman, Robert Wood, said the new administration was serious about negotiating reductions in nuclear weapons. A replacement treaty for START "will be put on a fast track," Wood said.

President Barack Obama said during the campaign that he would seek verifiable reductions in all US and Russian nuclear weapons. Clinton told Congress last month that deep reductions were the goal.

Some arms control posts in the new administration have not been filled, however, and that might slow preparations for talks. "I can't give you a time frame when we will be able to complete a review," Wood said. The administration was "clearly committed to reducing the numbers" but has not decided how deeply to slash.

In 2002, the then US President George W. Bush and then Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on a treaty that sets as a target 1,700 to 2,000 deployed strategic warheads by 2012.


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