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Obama Says U.S. Must Maintain Arms-Reduction Effort With Russia

President Barack Obama appealed to Russian leaders to maintain joint efforts aimed at ensuring that nuclear material doesn’t fall into the hands of terrorists.

At an event to mark the 20th anniversary of a program set up with the goal of securing and dismantling nuclear weapons and materials left in former Soviet republics, Obama said the threat of unsecured weapons material hasn’t receded.

“Nuclear terrorism remains one of the greatest threats to global security,” the president said in remarks to the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction symposium at the National Defense University in Washington. “Let’s work with Russia as an equal partner.”

The program was initiated under a 1992 law sponsored by former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn, a Democrat, and Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, a Republican, who Obama hailed as “two visionaries.”

The law led to the deactivation of 7,610 nuclear warheads and the elimination of all nuclear weapons from Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus, according to Lugar’s website.

Russia in October said it won’t renew its participation in the program, which provided financing, mostly from the U.S., to disarm and safeguard nuclear and chemical weapons in the former Soviet Union. Russia wants to take more control over securing its nuclear arsenal. The agreement is scheduled to expire next May.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has disagreed with Obama over U.S. plans to put part of a missile-defense system in Eastern Europe. The U.S. has said it is aimed at thwarting attacks from rogue states such as Iran. Russia contends it would alter the strategic balance.

The arms-reduction program had a budget of $508 million in fiscal 2012, and the Obama administration asked for $519 million for this fiscal year. The program has expanded beyond the former Soviet Union to include countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and China.

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