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OSCE Calls on Russia Not to Abandon Arms Treaty

The president of the European security organization OSCE is calling on Russia to reconsider its decision to suspend participation in the treaty limiting military forces in Europe.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, the current chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, says Russia's decision will only add to uncertainty about the security situation in Europe.

President Vladimir Putin signed a law in Moscow Friday suspending Russia's participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which dates back to 1990.

Mr. Putin's action takes effect on December 12. At that time Russia would be able to deploy more forces close to western Europe.

A senior U.S. State Department official, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, says Russia's decision to walk out on one of the most important arms control measures in Europe is a grave mistake.

Mr. Putin announced his intention to drop out of the conventional-forces treaty more than four months ago, in response to U.S. plans to install an anti-missile defense system in central Europe. In a statement Friday as he signed the new law, the Kremlin leader cited what he called "violations of the previous agreement with the expansion of military resources of various countries and NATO near [Russia's] borders."

Moscow-based researcher Alexander Khramchekhyn, of the Institute for Political and Military Analysis, tells VOA that neither Russia nor NATO members have violated military quotas set by the CFE treaty. He suggested Mr. Putin's comments this week are political rhetoric intended to influence voters taking part in Russia's parliamentary elections on Sunday.

U.S. officials say the defensive missile system is designed to counter a possible threat from what they call rogue states, such as Iran.

Despite Russia's suspension of the treaty, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says his country will continue to seek a compromise solution under which the Kremlin would return to the agreement.

Burns and Lavrov were speaking Friday on the sidelines of an OSCE meeting in Madrid.

The Soviet Union and NATO countries first signed the treaty in 1990 to set limits on the deployment of heavy conventional weapons. They updated it in 1999 to reflect the collapse of the Soviet Union, but NATO has refused to ratify the pact until Russia fulfills a commitment to withdraw forces from former Soviet bases in Georgia and Moldova.

Russia calls those deployments peacekeeping missions.

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