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CIS COMMANDER SAYS NUKES ARE UNDER CONTROL

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A commander from the former Soviet Union assured his former NATO foes on Friday that thousands of nuclear arms remain under control and efforts to dismantle the weapons are on course.

The assurances from Marshal Yevgeny Shaposhnikov came at an unprecedented gathering between leaders of the 16-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the nations of the defunct Warsaw Pact.However, Ukraine, which has halted promised transfers of its nuclear arsenal to Russia for destruction, did not attend.

The meeting of 30 military chiefs was designed to strengthen military ties between the two former warring blocs and help fledgling defense departments in the 15 ex-Soviet republics get off the ground.

One of the most crucial issues to arise from the downfall of Communism in the former Soviet Union has been the fate of some 27,000 nuclear weapons stockpiled there.

Gen. Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he discussed the subject with Shaposhnikov, military commander of the Commonwealth of Independent States, during a separate meeting.

"I got assurances from Marshal Shaposhnikov that they still have very solid control over all nuclear weapons in the CIS," Powell said.

Powell also said he was "reasonably hopeful" Ukraine would resume shipments of tactical nuclear weapons to Russia for dismantling.

Ukraine, whose tense relations with Russia are a major problem for the commonwealth, suspended the shipments last month, saying it wanted guarantees that they were being destroyed.

Ukraine officials canceled plans to attend Friday's session, citing a heavy workload at home.