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Obama Urges Swift Approval of START Treaty

  • Kent Klein

President Barack Obama (file photo)

President Barack Obama (file photo)

President Barack Obama is urging the U.S. Senate to rafity the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia before the end of the legislative session.

President Obama says approving the New START treaty is an urgent national priority. "Ratifying a treaty like START is not about winning a victory for an administration or a political party. It is about the safety and security of the United States of America," he said.

The president again appealed for approval of START during his weekly address on Saturday.

Senators are expected to debate and vote on the treaty in the coming days, as their session ends.

Republicans who oppose ratifying the treaty are threatening amendments to the legislation to slow the process.

Mr. Obama reminded them that the previous nuclear arms treaty has expired, and that the U.S. is no longer able to verify Russia's nuclear arsenal. "Every minute we drag our feet is a minute that we have no inspectors on the ground at those Russian nuclear sites," he said.

The president also pointed out that failing to ratify START or delaying approval would undermine the improving U.S. ties with Russia. "Without a new treaty, we will risk turning back the progress we have made in our relationship with Russia, which is essential to enforce strong sanctions against Iran, secure vulnerable nuclear materials from terrorists, and resupply our troops in Afghanistan," he said.

Some Republican lawmakers say the treaty does not provide adequately for U.S. missile defense or the upgrading of the American nuclear arsenal.

The president says START has been under review by the Senate for seven months, and has gone through 18 hearings, with almost 1,000 questions asked and answered. He says it has the support of every living Republican former secretary of state, America's NATO allies, the U.S. military leadership and several Republican senators.

Mr. Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the New START treaty last April in Prague. The Russian Duma is expected to ratify the agreement after the U.S. Senate does.

President Obama has delayed the start of his family Christmas vacation in his home state of Hawaii, to stay in Washington and sign START and other legislation.