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Russia: Duma To Hold Hearings On Start II Treaty

Moscow, 14 May 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Russian news agencies report that the State Duma will hold closed hearings on the Start II nuclear disarmament treaty. The Duma, however, today rejected setting up a special commission to pilot the treaty through parliament.

Duma Chairman Gennady Seleznyov said the lower house will hold what he called "a very responsible" hearing later this month which may decide the fate of the treaty. Seleznyov said that the defense minister, the foreign minister, and the atomic energy minister will all attend the session. He warned, however, that the government has not allocated any funds to implement any possible reduction in Russia's nuclear arsenal.

Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky said today that Russia considers the proliferation of nuclear weapons, especially in the countries of the "near abroad," as a serious threat to national security. He said special export control units will be set up in every company working in the missile or nuclear fields.

The United States has expressed concern that Russian civil nuclear contracts in Iran and India could lead to the proliferation of sensitive technology.

The U.S. Senate in January 1996 approved Start II, which provides for a two-thirds reduction in nuclear arsenals. U.S. President Bill Clinton is expected to discuss disarmament issues with President Boris Yeltsin on the sidelines of this weekend's G7 plus Russia summit in Birmingham, England.

Also today, Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko is expected to meet with Yeltsin at the president's Gorky-9 residence to discuss cabinet appointments and budget controls.

Kirienko will present a plan approved by his cabinet earlier today to ban any additional spending this year unless an alternative revenue source is found. Kirienko said last week that 26 percent of Russia's 1998 budget was not backed by revenues.