Key Republican noncommittal on Russia arms pact

A Republican senator who holds pivotal sway on the fate of a nuclear arms control treaty with Russia called a proposal by the Obama administration aimed at winning his support "a step in the right direction."

Updated: Nov 16, 2010, 14:14 PM IST

Washington: A Republican senator who holds
pivotal sway on the fate of a nuclear arms control treaty with
Russia called a proposal by the Obama administration aimed at
winning his support "a step in the right direction."

But Sen Jon Kyl of Arizona remained noncommittal on the
New START Treaty and cast doubt on whether it could be
considered for ratification this year.

The administration is pushing to get enough Republican
support for a vote before the Democrats` majority shrinks by
six in January.

In a meeting in Japan over the weekend, President Barack
Obama reassured his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev of his
commitment to winning approval in the so-called lame duck
session before most new lawmakers take their post in January.

Last week the administration sought to satisfy Kyl`s
conditions for supporting the treaty with a proposal to
significantly boost funding for the nation`s nuclear weapons
complex. A congressional aide briefed on White House plans
told The Associated Press last week that the White House was
proposing to add $4.1 billion that would go to maintaining and
modernizing the arsenal and the laboratories that oversee that
effort. US government officials traveled to Kyl`s home state
to make the proposal.

Asked following an awards ceremony honoring him
yesterday night whether the offer was sufficient to win his
support, Kyl said, "I don`t know, but it certainly is a step
in the right direction."

Kyl called the prospects for ratifying the treaty this
year "less likely than originally thought," because of other
pressing demands on the Senate schedule including tax and
government funding issues. But Democrats are likely to bring
up the treaty for a vote during the lame duck session if they
believe they have enough votes to approve it.

Kyl`s support is crucial because a number of his
Republican colleagues have said they will follow his lead on
the treaty. So his approval could push support beyond the 67
votes the administration needs for ratification in the
100-member Senate.

Kyl has maintained that boosting funding for the
stockpile would ease Republican concerns about the treaty by
demonstrating that the administration is serious about
maintaining a robust US nuclear deterrent.

The treaty would reduce US and Russian limits on
strategic warheads to 1,550 for each country from the current
ceiling of 2,200. It also would set up new procedures to allow
both countries to inspect each other`s arsenals to verify
compliance.

PTI