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Saturday, February 10, 2001, updated at 13:08(GMT+8)

Bush to Order Review of US Nuclear Arsenal

President George W. Bush will order a comprehensive review of the US nuclear arsenal as a first step toward making the unilateral weapons cuts in warheads and missiles that he promised during last year's campaign, a US official said Friday.

The official, who asked not to be identified, confirmed a New York Times report that the directive would be one of three orders for national defense studies to be outlined by Bush as early as Friday.

On Friday, the Times said the nuclear study could also be aimed at paving the way for Bush's promise to develop a controversial National Missile Defense (NMD) over bitter objections from Russia and China and questions raised by Washington's European allies.

The review is intended to move the United States toward what officials said would be a new strategic doctrine, as well as a new approach to arms control that reflects today's world rather than the Cold War's superpower standoff.

The US arsenal as of last year included 7,519 nuclear warheads on missiles, submarines or bombers, compared with Russia'

s 6,464. But the review is expected to lead to cuts below the 2,000 to 2,500 warheads proposed by the United States and Russia in 1997 as a goal for the third round of strategic arms reduction talks, or Start III.

In the past, however, senior US military officers raised strong objections to massive cuts in nuclear missiles so long as Russia retains thousands of long-range and tactical warheads despite the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

Bush promised major improvements in the military during his presidential campaign and plans to visit several military bases in the country next week to outline his ideas for defense.

In This Section

President George W. Bush was poised Friday to order a "top-to-bottom" review of US defense with an eye on unilateral cuts in nuclear arms and deploying a national missile defense (NMD) system, the White House said.

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