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START gets initial approval in Russia

By the CNN Wire Staff
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks from the podium before the first reading vote on the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in the State Duma, in Moscow.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks from the podium before the first reading vote on the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) in the State Duma, in Moscow.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Lavrov criticizes a Senate resolution meant to protect U.S. missile defense plans
  • The lower house of the Russian parliament has approved START
  • The treaty, between the U.S. and Russia, would reduce nuclear weapons
  • The U.S. Senate approved the treaty this week

Moscow (CNN) -- The lower house of the Russian parliament gave preliminary approval Friday to START, a nuclear arms reduction treaty between Russia and the United States.

The State Duma voted 350-58 in favor of the accord Friday. It needed 225 votes to pass.

Two more readings are required before the treaty can go to the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, for consideration. The first of those two readings will happen in mid-January.

The U.S. Senate approved the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, by a 71-26 vote on Wednesday.

The treaty is considered a critical component of nuclear non-proliferation efforts and the Obama administration's attempt to "reset" relations between the United States and Russia.

It would resume inspections of each country's nuclear arsenal while limiting both the United States and Russia to 1,550 warheads and 700 launchers.

The accord "will strengthen our country's security (and) international stability, consolidate the non-proliferation regime, and become an additional factor encouraging positive trends both in our relations with the U.S. and on the international arena in general," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during the debate that preceded the vote.

Lavrov, however, criticized a resolution passed by the U.S. Senate stating that treaty should not be interpreted in a way that could restrict the development of America's missile defense system.

The resolution, which references language in the treaty's preamble highlighting the link between strategic offensive and defensive weapons, "is a random interpretation of the principles and norms of international law," Lavrov asserted.

"This treaty must be adopted in full, without any exemptions," Lavrov said. "The link between strategic offensive and defensive weapons was documented in a legally binding form."

START approval 'Victory for America'
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President Barack Obama, who recently called the treaty "the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades," discussed the accord with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during a phone conversation on Thursday.

"President Medvedev congratulated President Obama on the Senate's approval of the new START Treaty, and the two leaders agreed that this was an historic event for both countries and for U.S.-Russia relations," a White House statement said.

The pact "will enhance our leadership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek the peace of a world without them," Obama added.

The U.S. Senate's approval of the treaty gave Obama a key victory on what has been considered one of his top foreign policy priorities.

The treaty will "serve as the basis of our security in the coming years," Medvedev said.

CNN's Maxim Tkachenko contributed to this report

 
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