Atom curb welcomed

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MOSCOW (Reuter)- President Boris Yeltsin yesterday welcomed a US initiative to stop producing key ingredients of atomic weapons but called on Washington to go further by halting underground nuclear tests.

A statement by Mr Yeltsin's press office said the move, announced on Monday by President Bush, was 'a major initiative whose significance and scale are not in doubt'.

Mr Bush said the US would no longer produce plutonium or highly enriched uranium, key components of nuclear arms, to discourage the further spread of weapons of mass destruction.

Some US analysts reacted sceptically to Mr Bush's move, noting that the US stopped producing plutonium in 1988 and enriched weapons-grade uranium as far back as 1964. In any case, Washington has stockpiled more than enough of both materials.

But the Russian statement praised Mr Bush, saying the move 'creates more favourable conditions for realising joint decisions by the US and Russia to lower the level of nuclear arms.'

Mr Bush and Mr Yeltsin agreed at a summit in Washington last month to slash arsenals of strategic nuclear weapons to about one third of their present levels.