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Russia: Duma Ratifies Chemical Weapons Ban

Moscow, 31 October 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, today ratified a 1993 international convention banning the acquisition, stockpiling or use of chemical weapons. The convention still must be approved by the Federation Council.

The communist-dominated Duma voted 288-75 to ratify the Convention, which has been signed by more than 160 countries. The Duma refused to ratify it earlier this year, saying it doubted Russia's ability to meet its financial obligations.

The Duma vote followed a debate during which First Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov warned that a refusal to ratify would harm Russia's long-term interests and could lead to sanctions against its chemical industry.

Ivanov said Russia could count on foreign countries covering 20 percent of the costs of destroying Russia's 40,000 tons of chemical weapons. He said the plan for destroying chemical stockpiles would be phased in over 15 years, at a cost of the equivalent of $5.5 billion.

Armed forces chief-of-staff Anatoly Kvashnin also urged ratification. He told deputies that toxic gas dating back to 1940 is stockpiled at seven locations and said urban sprawl in the vicinity of the stockpiles has made them a public hazard.

Earlier today, the chairman of the Duma's defense committee said the country does not have the financial means to eliminate its arsenals on its own. He said the world community must take into account the state of Russia's economy and offer assistance to help Moscow dispose of its chemical weapons.

The pact -- signed by Russia and more than 160 other nations -- bans the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons. It came into force in April.