Senators urged to back Russia treaty

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President Barack Obama lobbied senators by phone yesterday to back an arms treaty with Russia that he has called a national security imperative, as a top Senate Democrat conceded "house-by-house combat" would be needed to win enough Republican votes to prevail.

Mr Obama is continuing to call senators as he presses for passage of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start) before Congress adjourns, Bill Burton, the deputy press secretary, said.

Just weeks after Mr Obama's self-described "shellacking" in the elections on 2 November, ratification of the treaty would cap a string of political victories for the White House. Congress endorsed Mr Obama's tax compromise with Republicans and voted to repeal the military's ban on openly gay service members.

The White House and Senate Democratic leaders expressed confidence they will have enough votes to pass the arms treaty. On Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said he would oppose the accord, complicating the prospects for the treaty.

But Senator Charles Schumer said Democrats have gained the support of another Republican senator and predicted Democrats will get the two-thirds' vote the Constitution requires for the Senate to ratify a treaty. He said Democrats will need nine or 10 Republican votes.