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Russian parliament votes freeze on CFE treaty

by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) Nov 7, 2007
The Russian parliament on Wednesday voted unanimously to suspend the country's compliance with a key 1990 treaty limiting conventional force deployments in Europe.

In a motion, the State Duma said that in light of NATO expansion and other factors in Europe, the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty "no longer responds to the security interests of the Russian Federation."

The vote amounted to legislative confirmation of a decision already announced by President Vladimir Putin in July.

The CFE treaty was modified in 1999 to take account of the break-up of the Soviet Union, but Russia is the only country to have ratified this version.

A senior Russian official said Wednesday's vote did not mean Russia was withdrawing from the updated pact, only that it wanted NATO states to ratify and comply with it as Moscow had done.

"Before thinking of any big, new agreements we need our partners to fulfill what they have already agreed to," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak told lawmakers.

Shortly before the Duma vote, a top defence official said Russia was weighing the possibility of increasing force deployments on its western flank in light of suspension of the CFE treaty.

"Work is being done on this issue," Russia's deputy defence minister, General Alexander Kolmakov, was quoted as saying by domestic news agencies, adding that no decision had yet been taken.

"The position of the defence ministry and Russia as a whole is being worked out now and when a decision is reached it will be announced."

Prior to the Duma vote, Kislyak called on lawmakers to approve the legislation suspending Russia's participation in the treaty, saying it was "politically justified and legally necessary."

Putin has said Russia would no longer feel obliged to respect the CFE treaty until NATO member states followed its lead and ratified the new version.

NATO has said its members would not ratify the treaty until Russia withdrew all of its troops from the ex-Soviet republics of Georgia and Moldova.

Kislyak said NATO was making "artificial demands" of Russia and insisted that all parties to the original pact and the updated version were obligated to adhere to the deal.

"The 1999 agreement was a compromise, but it created a more predictable situation in Europe and is thus in our interest," Kislyak said.

The head of the Russian armed forces, General Yury Baluyevsky, meanwhile said that the newly-expanded NATO alliance had already de facto largely exceeded the force limits set by the CFE treaty.

He said NATO had surpassed conventional force limits by nearly 6,000 tanks, 10,822 armoured fighting vehicles, 5,000 artillery pieces, nearly 1,500 military aircraft and more than 500 strike helicopters.

"The destruction of the CFE treaty will be a massive, sensitive loss for the states of Europe," Baluyevsky was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti news agency.

"Russia is ready to do its part, but not at the expense of its own security," he said.

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SKorea, US concerned about NKorean missiles
Seoul (AFP) Nov 7, 2007
North Korea's development of long-range missiles and weapons of mass destruction pose a threat although the country has started disabling its nuclear reactor, US and South Korean officials said Wednesday.

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