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    Russian lawmakers ready to support CFE treaty moratorium

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    Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, will support a moratorium on a key arms reduction treaty in Europe, the house speaker said Tuesday.

    MOSCOW, November 6 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, will support a moratorium on a key arms reduction treaty in Europe, the house speaker said Tuesday.

    The State Duma will consider Wednesday the moratorium on the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty announced in July by President Vladimir Putin.

    "The United Russia faction in the lower house has agreed to support the bill [on the moratorium] submitted by the president," Boris Gryzlov said.

    The amended Soviet-era treaty was signed in 1999 in Istanbul and has so far only been ratified by Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine.

    No NATO countries have ratified the treaty's amended version, and the Russian moratorium is likely to come into force December 12, if Western countries do not ratify the document.

    Moscow considers the original CFE Treaty, signed in 1990 by 30 countries to reduce conventional military forces on the continent, to be outdated since it does not reflect the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the breakup of the Soviet Union, or recent NATO expansion.

    NATO countries have insisted on Russia's withdrawal from Transdnestr and other post-Soviet regions as a condition for their ratifying the CFE Treaty. NATO's reluctance to ratify the re-drafted pact is a key source of tension between Russia and the Western security alliance.

    Speaking in Washington at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Monday, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Kramer reiterated that if Russia was willing to fulfill its Istanbul commitments, then NATO members would look at ratifying the document, adding that Russia pledged in 1999 to withdraw its forces from Georgia and Moldova.

    However, Gryzlov said Istanbul agreements and the original CFE treaty were separate issues and attempts to use them as a pretext to avoid ratifying the amended version of the document were counterproductive.

    "These [Istanbul] are separate agreements and they are in no way linked to the ratification of the CFE treaty," he said.

    Under the Istanbul agreements, Russia has so far completed the pullout of its military garrison from the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, handing over control of its headquarters to Georgia's Defense Ministry last December, and formally handed over its military base at Akhalkalaki in southern Georgia to Tbilisi in June, ahead of the October 2007 deadline.

    There are 500 Russian servicemen deployed in Moldova's breakaway Transdnestr region, which are guarding Europe's largest arms depot.

    Meanwhile, Russia's foreign minister said Tuesday a collective approach was needed in resolving key issues on the global political agenda, including the future of the amended CFE treaty.

    "Talks on a number of serious international problems are converging at a single point," Sergei

    Lavrov said at a news conference after a parliament meeting on diplomacy.

    "The Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty is one of these problems. Another issue is missile defense. There is also Kosovo and the situation around Iran. All these issues demand the exclusive application of collective legal efforts," Lavrov said.

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