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Russian parliament postpones consideration of CFE moratorium

RIA Novosti

08/10/2007 14:14 (Recasts, adds quote in para 3, details, background in paras 2, 4-11)

MOSCOW, October 8 (RIA Novosti) - The lower house of Russia's parliament postponed until November hearings on a bill submitted by President Vladimir Putin on imposing a moratorium on the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty.

Lawmakers were set to consider the future of the 30-member treaty, which limits Russian and NATO conventional forces and heavy weaponry from the Atlantic to the Urals, on October 9.

"The hearings have been postponed until November," said Alexander Kosopkin, the presidential envoy to the State Duma.

The president's announcement came after a tense conference in Vienna, where NATO member states refused to ratify the amended CFE Treaty until Russia fully withdraws its troops from Georgia and Moldova, a commitment given by the late President Boris Yeltsin in Istanbul in 1999.

The CFE Treaty was amended in 1999 in Istanbul in line with post-Cold War realities, and has so far only been ratified by Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine.

No NATO countries have ratified the treaty's amended version. Russia's moratorium is to come into force later this year if the West does not ratify the treaty.

Following its large-scale expansion over the last decade, NATO has substantially exceeded armament levels permitted by the CFE for NATO members - by 6,000 tanks, some 10,000 armored vehicles, over 5,000 artillery items and some 1,500 combat planes.

Moscow considers the original CFE Treaty, signed in 1990, to be outdated since it does not reflect the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the breakup of the Soviet Union, or recent NATO expansion.

Moldova and Georgia have refused to ratify the treaty until Russia withdraws its troops from their territories.

Russia maintains a peacekeeping contingent in Georgia and a battalion guarding ex-Soviet ammunition depots in the self-proclaimed republic of Transdnestr, in Moldova.

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 one of the main sources of tension between Russia and the Western security alliance.

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