MUNICH, Feb 5: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched a landmark nuclear arms reduction pact with Russia on Saturday, a showpiece of Washington’s “reset” of ties with its former cold war enemy.

The new START nuclear arms reduction treaty officially came into force when Clinton and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov exchanged ratification documents at a security conference in the German city of Munich.

“Today we exchange the instruments of ratification for a treaty that lessens the nuclear danger facing the Russian and American people and the world,” Clinton said.

The chief US diplomat hailed the pact as another example of “clear-eyed” cooperation between the two military powers, “part of a journey we have been taking for more than 60 years.”Lavrov told the Munich conference that the agreement would “enhance international stability.”US Vice President Joe Biden used the same gathering of top defence officials in 2009 to state Washington’s desire to press the “reset” button in relations with Russia, which had cooled under the presidency of George W. Bush.

“When it comes to the button that has worried us the most over the years -- the one that would unleash nuclear destruction -- today we take another step to ensure that it will never be pushed,” Clinton said.

The US administration has touted the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty as a key element in improving ties with Moscow as well as a major step in US President Barack Obama’s vision of a world free of atomic weapons.

The pact slashes existing warhead ceilings by 30 percent over the next 10 years and limits each side to 700 deployed long-range missiles and heavy bombers.

The original 1991 pact expired at the end of 2009 amid stark differences over how the two sides planned to proceed.—AFP

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