U.S., Russia urge other states to join missile pact

MOSCOW Mon Oct 29, 2007 1:20pm EDT

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia and the United States urged all countries to destroy medium range nuclear-capable missiles, in a joint declaration by the former Cold War foes published by the Russian foreign ministry on Sunday.

Concerned that an increasing number of states, including Iran and North Korea, have the technology to make missiles that can travel 5,500 km (3,400 miles), they are calling for their 20-year-old bilateral treaty to become global in character.

"We believe that renunciation of ground-launched intermediate- and shorter-range missiles and their complete elimination in the world would increase the role of the treaty as a model for strengthening international security," the U.S and Russian declaration said.

The statement on the treaty on the elimination of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles was released to coincide with the 62nd session of the General Assembly in New York on October 25.

Russia has been pressing the U.S to rewrite what is commonly referred to as the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), by including countries other than ex-Soviet nations and the United States.

The treaty, signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan in December 1987, was a milestone in arms control which lead to the scrapping of 2,692 missiles in total.

The joint statement called on "all interested countries to discuss the possibility of imparting a global character to this important regime through the renunciation of ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km, leading to the destruction of any such missiles".

President Vladimir Putin told U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this month that Russia would find it difficult to stay in the INF unless it was expanded to include other countries' armaments.

His comments were backed up by a warning from Russia's rocket forces commander on Friday that the Kremlin could resume production of missiles if others do not observe the treaty.

"If there is a political decision to make such a class of missile, then it is obvious that they will be made in Russia in the near future because we have everything we need, Colonel-General Nikolai Solovtsov said.

Apart from U.S. enemies such as North Korea and Iran, other countries like Israel, India and Pakistan have started building arsenals of intermediate-range missiles. Although some possess nuclear weapons, none of them is constrained by the INF treaty.

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