Hillary calls for US Senate to act on nuclear pact

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton beseeched the Senate to vote this year on a US-Russia nuclear weapons treaty, saying delay was a threat to the nation` security.

Updated: Nov 18, 2010, 00:29 AM IST

Washington: Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton on Wednesday beseeched the Senate to vote this year on
a US-Russia nuclear weapons treaty, saying delay was a threat
to the nation` security.

Clinton held a breakfast meeting with lawmakers from
both parties a day after a key Senate Republican, Jon Kyl of
Arizona, stunned the administration by coming out against a
vote on the treaty during the current post-election session.

"This is not an issue that can afford to be
postponed," Clinton said after the meeting.

She pledged to work with Senate supporters of the pact
to overcome resistance. "We will do whatever it takes
literally around the clock," Clinton said.

The secretary was flanked by Sens John Kerry and Dick
Lugar, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee and the main advocates for the treaty. The
pact would reduce limits on US and Russian strategic warheads
and revive on-the-ground inspections that ceased when a
previous treaty expired nearly a year ago.

"I refuse to believe that the door shouldn`t remain
open" to a vote during the current session, said Kerry. "The
national security of our country deserves nothing less."

Kerry said there were no substantive disagreements on
the treaty itself and that a major objection of Kyl`s should
have been removed when the administration pledged an
additional USD 4.1 billion for weapons modernisation
programmes.

The country "is unlikely to have either the treaty or
the modernisation unless we get real," said Lugar.

All three stressed national security: Those in favour
of postponing or avoiding a vote "vastly underestimate the
continuing threat that is posed to this country," Clinton
said.

Kyl, the second-ranked Senate Republican, issued a
terse statement yesterday saying a vote should be put off
until next year. That dealt a major blow to President Barack
Obama`s efforts to improve ties with Russia and to his broader
strategy for reducing nuclear arms worldwide.

The treaty, known as New START, had been seen as one
of the president`s top foreign policy accomplishments.

Without the support of Kyl, the leading Republican
voice on the treaty, Democrats have little hope of securing at
least eight Republican votes, the minimum they would need for
ratification in the current Senate.

PTI