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Cold War defence alliance to wind down

Obama hopes to talk to Medvedev soon on nuclear deal
Washington (AFP) March 24, 2010 - President Barack Obama hopes to speak to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev within days, his spokesman said, amid strong indications a new nuclear arms deal could be signed early next month in Prague. Officials in the Czech Republic said they had been approached to hold a ceremony between Russia and the United States and a Kremlin source said earlier that Moscow and Washington had agreed on all documents required for a deal. But White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was not yet ready to confirm that a replacement for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) which expired last year, had been agreed.

"I have said on many occasions that we are making strong progress toward getting an agreement," Gibbs said. "We are, I think, very close to having an agreement on a START treaty but won't have one until President Obama and his counterpart, Mr. Medvedev, have a chance to speak again." "I think they will likely speak in the next few days ... I think we are very close to getting an agreement."

Earlier, a US official said the White House had spoken with Russia and the Czech Republic about its desire to sign the future treaty, drastically reducing the nuclear stocks of the two former Cold War foes, in Prague. "We are still working to finalize a new START treaty but we have talked to our Czech allies and the Russians about a signing in Prague when the treaty is finished," the official said, on condition of anonymity. "Prague is where the president delivered a speech outlining his arms control and non-proliferation vision last spring and where we always wanted to do a signing."

Russian media reports have said that the two countries would like to sign the successor to the 1991 START deal before the United States hosts a nuclear security summit on April 12-13. Obama laid out a vision for a nuclear-free world in a major speech last year in Prague, while acknowledging he may not live to see that goal achieved.
by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) March 24, 2010
The Cold War-era Western European Union defence alliance, set up in the wake of World War II, is to cease functioning, its assembly's head Robert Walter said on Wednesday.

"The WEU as an organisation will be wound down within a year or so," said British parliamentarian Walter, who presides over the Paris-based assembly of the international grouping.

The body was initiated by Belgium, Britain, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands in 1948 and later expanded to include Germany, Italy, Spain and others.

Its founding principles were "to afford assistance to each other in resisting any policy of aggression," and "to promote unity and to encourage the progressive integration of Europe."

The very year after it was formed the eclipse of the western European body began with the formation of NATO, with the key inclusion of the United States.

It has since seen its role disappear altogether as the Cold War ended and the 27-nation European Union and NATO presided over a largely peaceful Europe.

Walters said an announcement would be made "in the coming days" on ending the WEU, which is no longer seen as having a useful role in the present-day world.

According to a diplomat, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband wrote this month to the WEU's British delegation informing it of Britain's intention to renounce the body's founding treaty within the coming days.

Many countries hope for a more collective announcement, the source said.

Including associate and observer nations, the WEU is made up of 28 countries including most of the EU members along with Turkey, Iceland and Norway.

It currently has a budget of 13 million euros (17 million dollars) and a staff of 60.

The body's interparliamentary assembly is based in Paris while the official headquarters moved to Brussels a decade ago.

Walter said he expected official notification of the decision to wind the body down to be made by the end of the month.

The WEU's functions have been diminishing for years.

A decision was taken in 2000 to scrap ministerial meetings, since when all decisions have been taken by written procedure.

Britain, less attached to the idea of European integration than France, Spain and others, had remained more interested in the WEU due to its nature as an intergovernmental institution.

The last nail in its coffin was the passage in December of the EU's reforming Lisbon Treaty, which includes an assistance clause and permits the creation of ad hoc interparliamentary groups.

Nonetheless Walter said he hoped, with London's support, that the WEU could be succeeded by a "permanent conference" of representatives of national parliaments in Europe.

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Russia Needs Minimum 50 Nuclear Subs For Fleet
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Mar 23, 2010
The Russian Navy ideally needs to have at least 50 nuclear-powered submarines, a high-ranking Navy officer said during a live interview with Ekho Moskvy radio station on Saturday. The Russian Navy has some 60 strategic, multi-functional and diesel-powered submarines in its fleet that are combat ready. "The number of nuclear submarines in Russia's Navy should be no less than 40-50," F ... read more

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