Biden confident Senate will support START treaty

Reuters, Sunday 19 Dec 2010

US vice president is optimistic that Republican objections will not the derail nuclear treaty with Russia

Top Democrats, including Vice President Joe Biden, said on Sunday they believe they have enough support in the U.S. Senate to ratify a new nuclear arms treaty with Russia.

Biden also told NBC's "Meet the Press" that the United States would "make good" on a commitment to fully develop a missile defence system in Europe, seeking to reassure Senate Republicans concerned the accord would limit U.S. options. The Senate was poised to resume debate on the START treaty as early as Sunday. The treaty is a top priority of President Barack Obama with Congress set to adjourn for Christmas break in the coming days.

The New START treaty, signed by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in April, would require the former Cold War adversaries to reduce strategic nuclear warheads and bombers. It would also establish a verification and inspection system to ensure both abide by terms of the agreement.

Republicans opposing the treaty say the pact would limit U.S. efforts to develop systems like those it plans to deploy in Europe to defend against any limited missile attacks from Iran or North Korea.

It was unclear whether the deal had enough Republican support to garner the 67 votes needed to pass in the 100-member Senate.

Biden, however, expressed his optimism that supporters had enough votes to support ratification.

Richard Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate leadership, told "Fox News Sunday" that he thought there was enough support. "I think we need to bring this to a vote," Durbin said.

Senator Jon Kyl, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate and a leading critic of the treaty, told the same program that, in the past, the United States had "kept missile defence off the table when talking about reducing strategic offensive weapons."

Asked if he was going to vote against ratification if there was no change to the treaty, Kyl said: "Absolutely. This treaty needs to be fixed and we are not going to have the time to do that" in the few days left in the current session of Congress.

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