Putin: pact brings 'strategic stability'

After a debate behind closed doors, the Duma approved the Treaty of Moscow by which the US and Russia agree to cut stocks of deployed strategic nuclear warheads by two-thirds.

Deputies voted in favour of ratification by 294 to 134. This means that by 2012, both countries will have between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads each, according to Duma Deputy Gennady Raykov.

President Vladimir Putin, who signed the treaty with US President George W. Bush in May 2002, had urged the lower house on Tuesday to approve the accord which he described as "an extremely important document in the field of strategic stability".

The treaty has already been ratified by the US Congress, with both sides wanting to pass the treaty through their parliaments in time for summit talks between Putin and Bush in St Petersburg on June 1.

Preparing for summit

The vote also coincided with a visit to Moscow by US Secretary of State Colin Powell, in preparation for the summit. 

Best of friends?

In St Petersburg, Putin and Bush will seek to show that good relations are still on track despite divisions over the Iraqi war.

"Even at the height of the Iraq crisis [Russia and the United States] did not act against each other, but defended our different approaches to solving a very complicated international problem," said Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

The US is also likely to raise Russian nuclear technology sales to Iran. Secretary of State Powell has already told Fox News that he was "disappointed" in the Russian response to requests for information so far. 

Russia is likely to seek clarification of a draft resolution presented by the US at the United Nations on raising Iraq's sanctions.

Deputy Foreign Minister Yury Fedotov said the draft had "a number of parts that are not sufficiently clear and that require serious work and clarification".

Fedotov also raised the question of who will control spending of oil revenues and approve future contracts, complaining the proposed draft "fails to provide a clear picture of the transition from the United Nations's oil-for-food program".