Biden: Failure to OK START pact dangerous

Nov. 16, 2010 at 5:57 PM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Failure to approve the U.S.-Russian nuclear treaty this year would endanger the country's security, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday.

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., the Republican Party's point man on the ratification of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, indicated he thought the treaty ratification should be delayed until the next session of Congress because of "unresolved issues," The Washington Post reported.

"Without ratification of this treaty, we will have no Americans on the ground to inspect Russia's nuclear activities, no verification regime to track Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal, less cooperation between the two nations that account for 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons, and no verified nuclear reductions," Biden said in a statement. "The new START treaty is a fundamental part of our relationship with Russia, which has been critical to our ability to supply our troops in Afghanistan and to impose and enforce strong sanctions on the Iranian government."

Biden noted the new treaty enjoys bipartisan support and was subject to 18 hearings.

President Barack Obama has called passage of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty his main foreign policy priority during the lame-duck session. Unclear was whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would bring up the treaty for a vote despite Kyl's misgivings. Reid spokesman Jim Manley had no immediate comment, the Post said.

In a statement, Kyl said he told Reid he didn't think the treaty should be considered in the lame-duck session "given the combination of other work Congress must do and the complex and unresolved issues related to START and modernization."

"I appreciate the recent effort by the administration to address some of the issues that we have raised, and I look forward to continuing to work" with it.

Officials throughout the administration acknowledge the need to have Kyl on board, even Obama himself.

"We've been in a series of conversations with Senator Kyl, whose top priority is making sure that the nuclear arsenal that we do have is modernized. I share that goal," Obama told reporters Sunday.

The lobbying and the administration's offer of an extra $4 billion on the nuclear complex reflect Obama's belief that the treaty is crucial to his nuclear agenda and U.S.-Russia relations, the Post said.

The treaty, which would reduce the number of deployed, long-range nuclear warheads on each side from 2,200 to 1,550. It also would allow both countries to check on the number and location of each other's long-range, ready-to-use nuclear weapons.

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