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British PM Unveils Plans for New Nuclear-Armed Sub Fleet


British Prime Minister Tony Blair has unveiled a multi-billion dollar plan for a new generation of nuclear-armed British submarines.

Mr. Blair told parliament Monday it would be "unwise and dangerous" for Britain to give up its independent nuclear deterrent.

Authorities say Britain's four U.S.-built nuclear submarines now in service are set to end their operational life in 2024. Each vessel carries 16 Trident nuclear missiles.

In what is widely seen as a concession to nuclear opponents, the prime minister said Britain could reduce its nuclear submarine fleet from four to three. He also said Britain could cut back on its nuclear warhead arsenal from 200 to fewer than 160 missiles.

Earlier today, a Blair spokesman said the plan is based on an assessment of how best to protect the country in what he called an unstable world.

The Blair proposal is expected to meet opposition from anti-nuclear campaigners. Those opponents claim that any new British nuclear deterrent could trigger an arms race by countries such as North Korea and Iran.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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