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Putin Hopes for Ratification of Nuclear Arms Treaty with US

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he hopes to see the Russian parliament ratify a key nuclear arms reduction treaty with the United States. The U.S. Senate has already ratified the treaty. Russian ratification has been postponed indefinitely amid strong differences over the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

President Putin says his nation's position on the war in Iraq and that of the United States do not coincide. And while the Russian leader acknowledges that the different approaches create what he called an unfavorable background for ratifying the so-called Moscow treaty, he said his administration is interested in seeing lawmakers do just that.

Mr. Putin says ratification is in Russia's best interest. He also says his administration would work together with members of both houses of parliament, the Duma and the Federation Council, to see that the goal of ratification is realized.

The Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, had been expected to ratify the treaty last month. But the vote was postponed indefinitely amid Moscow's belief that its views on Iraq were being ignored.

The accord, signed last May by President Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush, calls on both nations to reduce their strategic long-range nuclear arsenals by about two-thirds, to between 1,700 and 2,200 such weapons each.

Ratification of the accord has been a top priority for Moscow ahead of the planned U.S. Russian summit in St. Petersburg next month.

President Putin said he hopes parliament will overlook the differences on Iraq and ratify the landmark arms control treaty anyway.

Mr. Putin has characterized the strengthening of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime a top challenge of the 21st Century.