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Bush Urges Senate to OK New Treaty on Nuclear Arms - 2002-06-05


President Bush wants the Senate to move quickly to approve his nuclear arms treaty with Russia. Mr. Bush met Wednesday with two senators who said the administration should make sure there is enough money to ensure the disarmament is done safely.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says President Bush asked the senators to approve the new Treaty of Moscow before they adjourn in October.

The president met with the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democrat Joseph Biden, as well as Republican Senator Richard Lugar, who is a senior member of the committee.

Senator Biden said he expects the treaty will make its way through the Senate before October. The deal calls for both the United States and Russia to reduce their nuclear arsenals by two-thirds over the next decade from more than 6,000 warheads to about 2,000.

Some of those warheads will be destroyed. Some will be put in storage. Both senators expressed concern about Russia's ability to safely store nuclear material extracted from the warheads.

Senator Lugar says the United States must make sure it helps Russia carry-out the disarmament safely. "How do we work with the Russians on the destruction of the warheads or the fissile material or the safety of this, particularly given the war against terrorism where there are a lot of people out there trying to get their hands on these storehouses," he asked.

For Senator Biden, the "good news" of a treaty reducing nuclear weapons should not be overshadowed by the potential "bad news" that those decommissioned weapons could fall into the wrong hands.

"It costs money," he stressed. "The Russians are not failing to destroy them because they are bad guys. They do not have the money. And so we have got to figure out a way to have our mutual interests met here."

The agreement comes just months after President Bush announced he was withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty because it prevented the United States from developing a new generation of weapons to defend against missile attack.

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