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Russia: Duma Postpones Ratification Of Chemical Weapons Treaty

Moscow, 25 April 1997 (RFE/RL) - Russia's State Duma voted today to postpone ratification of an international treaty banning chemical weapons until later this year because of what it called "very difficult economic conditions." Last night, the U.S. Senate approved the treaty, clearing the way for the United States to ratify the pact before it goes into effect Tuesday.

The Duma delegates did not specify when they would reconsider the treaty, called the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

More than 160 countries, including Russia, have initialed the treaty since it was opened for signature in 1993, but slightly more than half of them have so far formally ratified it.

The U.S. Senate's approval of the treaty gives President Bill Clinton what is considered a major foreign policy victory. The treaty received seven votes more than the two-thirds majority needed for endorsement.

Clinton, who lobbied hard for the treaty's passage, hailed the Senate vote. He said it "served America well" by reducing the chance American troops will face poison gas on the battlefield.

The treaty bans the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons after 2007. Critics say the treaty is unverifiable and will open the United States to danger from nations such as Libya, North Korea and Iraq that refuse to sign it.

Opponents also fear inadequate monitoring could allow Russia and China to circumvent the treaty. Neither Moscow nor Beijing have ratified the accord. Supporters say the only way to isolate renegade nations is through participation in the treaty.