Europe arms treaty comes into force

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The Independent Online
THE Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, cutting tens of thousands of armoured vehicles from arsenals between the Atlantic and the Urals, will come into force at one minute past midnight tomorrow morning, in spite of fears that it would never be ratified after the break-up of the former Soviet Union, writes Christopher Bellamy.

Belarus and Armenia, two of the 29 countries which are signatories or heirs to signatories of the treaty signed in November 1990, said they would have problems ratifying it. But at an extraordinary conference last Friday, the 29 nations approved 'provisional application' of the treaty until Belarus and Armenia could ratify.

An intensive 120-day period of 'baseline inspections' to establish current holdings in each country will begin tomorrow. Britain is expecting up to receive up to 30 inspections a year, plus 17 to its forces in Germany. In return, Britain will carry out a similar number of inspections.

A senior Ministry of Defence official said he was not expecting a flood of inspectors. The treaty was signed as a bloc-to-bloc agreement between what were the 22 Nato nations and the former Warsaw Pact. But now, the former Warsaw Pact members may be more interested in inspecting each other. Countries can carry out five inspections a year on members, whether their allies or former allies.

The British Joint Arms Control Implementation group, based at Scampton in Lincolnshire, has already done 300 practice inspections.

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