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Obama urged to cut nuclear arsenal

An influential panel is calling for an 80% reduction of US nuclear weapons and an elimination of all nuclear armed intercontinental ballistic missiles.

In a report for the advocacy group Global Zero, retired General James Cartwright and others argue that the US needs no more than 900 total nuclear weapons for its security in a post-Cold War world.

The report chaired by Gen Cartwright, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff known to be close to President Barack Obama, comes at a time that the president is weighing a range of sharp nuclear reductions.

The Obama administration is reportedly considering at least three options for lower total numbers of deployed strategic nuclear weapons: reducing their numbers to 1,000 to 1,100; 700 to 800; or 300 to 400.

The Global Zero report calls for such weapons to be reduced to about 450, while maintaining an equal number of stored weapons.

The US and Russia have an estimated 5,000 nuclear weapons each, either deployed or in reserve. The two countries are already on track to reduce to 1,550 deployed strategic warheads by 2018, as required by the New Start treaty.

The proposal also calls for achieving the cuts over 10 years either unilaterally or through negotiations with Russia that would also include an agreement that would take weapons off of the kind of hair-trigger launch capacity that planners have long worried could leave a president with only minutes to decide how to respond to incoming missiles.

This would be accomplished by requiring steps that would take 24 to 72 hours to fire off a nuclear weapon either from a submarine or from a strategic bomber.

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