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US Nuclear Weapons Cuts Must Be Irreversible, says Russia - 2002-01-10

Russian officials say any cuts in U.S. nuclear weapons must be irreversible. Russian officials were responding to U.S. plans to put some weapons in storage instead of destroying them.

Moscow said it does not want to see what it described as cuts in nuclear weapons that are "on paper only."

In a statement released by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said the nuclear arsenals should be cut to between 1,500 to 2,200 warheads. He described the cuts as a "radical" reduction.

Mr. Yakovenko also said the cuts should be "irreversible."

The Russian announcement follows a presentation by senior Pentagon officials in Washington on Wednesday. They outlined plans to store many nuclear warheads instead of destroying them.

Both the United States and Russia have said that they would like to reduce their nuclear arsenals to around 1,500 to 2,200 warheads. Each side now has between 6,000 to 7,000 weapons.

But one of the sticking points has been whether the nuclear warheads will be destroyed or stored. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security, J.D. Crouch, said in Washington on Wednesday that the warheads that were stored would be rendered inactive and would need several months to get them ready to use.

The Bush administration is reviewing the country's nuclear weapons policies. At the heart of Washington's plans is a missile defense shield to protect against missiles launched by so-called rogue states, such as Iraq, Iran or North Korea.

Last month, President George Bush announced that the United States was pulling out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, which bans defensive weapons systems such as the missile shield Washington is proposing.

Many officials in Russia were critical of the United States when it pulled out of the treaty, although President Vladimir Putin said the U.S. move would not endanger Russian security.