President Barack Obama's strategic nuclear arms treaty with Russia secured enough votes on Tuesday to clear a Republican procedural hurdle and appeared headed toward ratification in the US Senate this week.
A motion to limit further debate on the treaty passed with 67 votes, the same number needed to secure Senate approval. A final vote on the accord will take place within 30 hours.
The treaty, which would cut strategic atomic weapons deployed by each country to no more than 1,550 within seven years, was signed by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in April.
It is a centerpiece of Obama's bid to "re-set" relations with Russia, which has been increasingly co-operative on issues related to US national security, from curbing Iran's nuclear programme to the war in Afghanistan.
At least 10 Senate Republicans publicly backed the accord – enough to give Obama's Democrats the needed two-thirds majority in the 100-member chamber. All 58 members of the Senate Democratic caucus were expected to support the treaty.
"We are on the brink of writing the next chapter in the 40-year history of wrestling with the threat of nuclear weapons," said Democratic Senator John Kerry, who as chairman of Foreign Relations Committee has helped lead the charge for START. At least four more Republicans announced they would support the treaty.
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