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Fate of nuclear arms treaty unclear

WASHINGTON — The White House is scrambling to strike a last-minute deal with Republicans to save the New Start arms treaty with Russia from the threat of a lingering death.

Administration officials are trying to win the support of Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the GOP point man, to have the pact scheduled for a vote in the upcoming lame-duck session, rather than next year when Republicans will hold six more seats.

The treaty, which also awaits ratification in Russia, would lower the maximum number of long-range active nuclear warheads each country could maintain and would set procedures for each country to inspect each other's strategic nuclear bases.

A failure by the Senate to approve the treaty would deny the United States any on-the-ground means of inspecting Russia's huge nuclear arsenal and would damage improvements in relations between the countries.

President Barack Obama declared Thursday that one of his top priorities is approval of New Start, which is perhaps the president's most tangible foreign policy achievement.

But some senior Republicans, such as Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, who is the ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have predicted there won't be time to take up the treaty this year.

While the pact's supporters say they remain hopeful they can win the 67 votes needed for ratification, others fear that if the treaty is left for next year's more polarized Congress, it may never be brought to a vote.

James Lindsay, a former national security aide in the Clinton administration who is at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote this week that the treaty is "in intensive care."

Fate of nuclear arms treaty unclear 11/05/10 [Last modified: Friday, November 5, 2010 11:23pm]

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