Support Builds for Approval of U.S.-Russia Nuke Pact

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President Obama is gaining Republican support for his major arms control treaty with Russia.

Earlier this year, the United States and Russia negotiated the new START pact to cap nuclear weapons and restart weapons inspections, in the spirit of U.S. efforts to reset the relationship between the former Cold War foes.

Supporters of the treaty report that they now have two-thirds of the votes needed to gain approval in the U.S. Senate to ratify it.

However, many Republicans are still reluctant about the deal.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said that the new treaty is flawed because it would limit the United States ability to protect itself from ballistic missile attacks.

"No senator should be forced to make decisions like this so we can tick off another item on someone's political checklist before the end of the year," McConnell said.

Bolstering Obama's argument for quick action, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent a letter to lawmakers reiterating support for the accord.

"This treaty enhances our ability to do that which we in the military have been charged to do: protect and defend the citizens of the United States. I am confident in its success as I am in its safeguards. The sooner it is ratified, the better," Mullen wrote.

Democrats need at least 67 "yes" votes to ratify the treaty. Supporters are hopeful that they will have the additional votes needed by the end of the week.

The treaty specifically would limit each country's strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550, down from the current ceiling of 2,200. It also would establish a system for monitoring and verification.

U.S. weapons inspections ended a year ago with the expiration of the 1991 START treaty.

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