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The Soviet Union is quietly moving nuclear warheads from the Baltic states and other nationalist hot spots to the more stable Russian republic, Bush administration officials and private experts said Friday.

"It's the prudent thing to do," said an administration official, noting that upheaval in the Baltics and the southern republics in recent months has stirred concern in Moscow that a nuclear weapons storage site could be overrun by rebels.

Private experts on the Soviet military said the United States should view the development as reassuring because it indicates that Kremlin authorities are taking precautions in the face of political instability in the Baltics.