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Landmark nuclear treaty passes Russia's lower house

By the CNN Wire Staff
Barack Obama congratulated President Dmitry Medvedev (L) on the State Duma's approval of New START on Tuesday.
Barack Obama congratulated President Dmitry Medvedev (L) on the State Duma's approval of New START on Tuesday.
  • President Obama has called New START the most significant treaty in two decades
  • It would reduce the stockpile of nuclear arms in both countries and resume monitoring
  • The upper house of Russia's parliament still has to vote on it

Moscow (CNN) -- Russia's lower house of parliament ratified Tuesday a landmark nuclear disarmament treaty with the United States, the first such weapons pact in the post-Cold War era.

The sweeping arms reduction pact, known as New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) replaces START 1, which expired in December 2009. It passed the State Duma by a vote of 350 to 96, the official Itar-Tass news agency reported. One deputy abstained.

The treaty, considered a critical component of nuclear non-proliferation efforts, was signed by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last April and gained U.S. Senate approval in December.

In a phone call placed to express condolences for Monday's terrorist attack at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport, Obama congratulated Medvedev on the State Duma's approval of New START, the White House said.

The treaty is designed to slash the stockpile of strategic nuclear weapons in both countries to 1,550 warheads -- down from a current cap of 2,200 -- and 700 launchers.

It also calls for a resumption of inspections of nuclear arsenals that ended when START 1 expired and helps move forward with White House efforts to "reset" U.S.-Russian relations.

Obama has called the treaty "the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades" and the U.S. Senate's approval in December gave Obama a key victory on what has been considered one of his top foreign policy priorities.

Russia's lower house gave its preliminary approval to the treaty shortly after the U.S. Senate vote.

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 in December.

Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, could hold its ratification vote in its first session on Wednesday.