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World: EU Wants Nuclear Arms Cuts Intensified

New York, 28 September 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The European Union says nations that possess nuclear weapWashington Journaleffort to reduce their stockpiles. The EU also says Russia should ratify an existing nuclear arms accord with the United States.

The pleas are part of an EU memorandum under circulation at the 53rd annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The U.N. debate entered its second week today.

The EU said it believes that "the systematic and progressive efforts by nuclear-weapons states to reduce nuclear weapons need to be intensified and pursued with determination."

There are two EU members that possess nuclear weapons - Britain and France. However, their nuclear arsenal is relatively small, compared with those stockpiled by the U.S. and Russia.

The Russian State Duma lower house of parliament has postponed a ratification vote on the START-Two treaty with the U.S. until this fall. The 1993 treaty would cut U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals nearly in half from the current 6,000 warheads each. A proposed START-Three treaty would reduce nuclear arms to 80 percent of Cold War levels.

The EU said it "reiterates its urgent call on the Russian Federation to ratify the START-Two Treaty without delay so as to enable its rapid entry into force."

The communist-dominated Duma has been reluctant to take up the arms reduction treaty, saying the formidable Russian nuclear arsenal would safeguard the country against what some lawmakers perceive as external military threats.

The EU memorandum also expresses hope that once the Duma ratifies the accord, START-Three will follow.

The EU condemns the nuclear tests carried out by India and Pakistan earlier this year. The memorandum expresses deep concern about the "grave threat to international peace and security posed by these tests which seriously damage global efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and to bring about nuclear disarmament."

The EU has called on both India and Pakistan to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and to refrain from developing and deploying nuclear weapons and missiles.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee pledged late last week before the U.N. General Assembly his country's willingness to sign a nuclear test ban treaty. The promise followed a similar pledged by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Vajpayee said India wants the treaty to go into force no later than September, 1999.

Sharif said his country's signing depends on whether rival India resumes its tests.

For several years, India has sought an agreement by the declared nuclear powers to set a deadline to destroy their arsenals. The five - The United States, Britain, France, China and Russia - have refused.

States that sign on to the CTBT are obliged to refrain from testing nuclear devices.