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U.S. Senate To Begin Formal Debate On New START Treaty

U.S. Senator Richard Lugar
The U.S. Senate is scheduled to begin formal debate today on a new nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia.

The Senate voted 66-32 on December 15 to begin the process of ratifying the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START.

President Barack Obama has said ratifying the treaty is a top priority.

Republicans, however, have doubts, including concerns the treaty will limit U.S. missile defense.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he is willing to keep the Senate in session past this weekend and possibly through the Christmas holiday to deal with New START and other legislation.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Republican Senator Richard Lugar spelled out what he feels is at stake if the treaty is rejected.

"A rejection of New START would be greeted with delight in Iran, North Korea, Syria, Burma," Lugar said. "These nations want to shield their weapons programs from outside scrutiny, and they want to be able to acquire sensitive weapons technologies. They want to block international efforts to make them comply with their international obligations. Rogue nations fear any nuclear cooperation between the United States and Russia because they know that it limits their options."

In April, Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the agreement, committing the former Cold War rivals to cut deployed nuclear weapons to no more than 1,550 each within seven years.

compiled from agency reports