President Barack Obama has renewed his call for US senators to ratify an arms control treaty with Russia before the Democratic-led Congress breaks up.

In his weekly address, Mr Obama said the "safety and security of America" was at stake.

The US and Russian presidents signed the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start) in April, but ratification has been delayed by disagreements.

The treaty requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate to become law.

That means that the Democrats need two independents and a number of Republicans to vote in favour of ratification.

Some Republicans had tried to delay the debate on ratification until January, when a new-look Congress will include more Republican senators.

The treaty is a key part of Mr Obama's efforts to "reset" relations with Russia.

But Republicans have raised a number of concerns, including whether the treaty would allow the modernisation of America's nuclear arsenal.

One senior Republican, Senator Kit Bond, said the treaty would give "essentially a vote on our missile defence decisions".
Warhead reduction

Speaking the day after he signed into law an extension to wide-ranging tax cuts passed by his predecessor, President George W Bush, Mr Obama appealed to the Senate to put aside partisan differences and ratify the treaty.
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“Start Quote
Barack Obama

Every minute we drag our feet is a minute that we have no inspectors on the ground at those Russian nuclear sites”

End Quote Barack Obama US President

Noting that arms control treaties with Russia had been supported by every US president from Ronald Reagan onwards, Mr Obama said the new treaty had backing from the military, from former presidents, and had been scrutinised by 18 Senate hearings over seven months.

Failing to pass the treaty would hit US credibility in the eyes of other nations, he added.

"We'll risk undermining American leadership not only on nuclear proliferation, but a host of other challenges around the world.

"Ratifying a treaty like Start isn't about winning a victory for an administration or a political party. It's about the safety and security of the United States of America."

The terms of the new treaty would restrict each nation to a maximum of 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads - a cut of about 30% from a limit set eight years ago.

The treaty would limit to 700 the number of deployed ballistic missiles or nuclear bombers.

It would also establish a new mechanism for sending inspectors to the other country's nuclear sites.

Since the previous Start treaty expired in December 2009, Russia and the US have not been able to conduct inspections of each other's nuclear stockpiles - leading to uncertainty about what the other side is doing.
The US Capitol building (file pic) Republicans have said the treaty will compromise US missile defence plans

"Every minute we drag our feet is a minute that we have no inspectors on the ground at those Russian nuclear sites," Mr Obama said in his address, adding: "It's time to get this done."

Republicans have raised a number of concerns, including whether the treaty would allow the modernisation of America's nuclear arsenal.

Senator Kit Bond, the most senior Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, condemned the treaty as "giving Russia essentially a vote on our missile defence decisions".

A vote is expected early next week.