FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2007 11:39 MECCA TIME, 8:39 GMT
Putin suspends European arms pact
Putin had ordered the moratorium in July amid a row with the US over it missile shield plans [AFP]
Russia has suspended its participation in a treaty that limits its military force in Europe dating back to the Cold war.
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, signed a law suspending Russia's commitment to the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, the Kremlin announced on Friday. A day earlier, the US and the EU had urged Russia not to freeze its compliance to CFE.
"The EU regards the treaty as the cornerstone of European security," Luis Amado, the Portuguese foreign minister, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, said in Madrid. In Video
Russian leader looks to Stalin's legacy He said Europe was "deeply concerned ... about the future viability of the treaty should Russia cease to implement treaty operations".
Putin's move comes on the final day of campaigning ahead of Russia's parliamentary elections.
No redeployment planned
The suspension will come into force on December 12, but a senior defence ministry official said the decision would not trigger any immediate redeployment of Russian forces.
"The entry into force of the moratorium does not mean that Russia will immediately start redeploying troops on its flanks," the unnamed official was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.
"But we reserve the right to move our forces on our territory where we consider them necessary."
Putin had ordered the moratorium in July amid a row over US plans to install an anti-missile shield in eastern Europe.
Criticising CFE, the speaker of the upper house of Russia's parliament and a Putin ally, described provisions of the treaty as "colonial".
"Under this agreement, we cannot move a single tank on our own territory," Sergei Mironov was quoted by Interfax as saying.
"Russia fulfilled the CFE provisions in good faith while Nato bases sprang up in Romania, Bulgaria and the United States prepared to install its anti-missile defence system along Russia's border."
Mironov has said Russia could return to the treaty, although Western diplomats have questioned how such a return could be achieved.
The 1990 arms control treaty set limits on the deployment of heavy conventional weapons by Nato and Warsaw Pact countries, to ease tensions along the border between the old Eastern bloc and Western Europe.
The treaty was revised in 1999 after the break-up of the Soviet Union and Russia ratified the updated treaty in 2004.
But the US and other Nato refused to follow suit, saying Moscow first must fulfil obligations to withdraw forces from Georgia and from Moldova's separatist region of Trans-Dniester.
Nato members, led by the US, say they cannot ratify the pact because Moscow has not fully complied with a related commitment to withdraw its military presence from ex-Soviet Georgia and Moldova. Source: Agencies
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