Ukraine on Friday offered a new reading of the historic START 1 nuclear arms treaty, saying it would be allowed to keep 46 long-range missiles unless a new pact is signed.
President Leonid Kravchuk, while repeating his country's intention to become a nuclear-free state, proposed that Ukraine sign a special treaty with the United States and Russia on the destruction of the SS-24 missiles.Ukraine's new demand, showing a desire to be regarded as an equal partner, followed its declaration earlier this month claiming ownership of the missiles stationed on its land.
That claim raised doubts about Ukraine's commitment to ratify the 1991 START 1 treaty, signed by the former Soviet Union and the United States.
Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan still have strategic nuclear weapons on their territory and would be required to hand them over to Russia or destroy them. Only Ukraine has not ratified START 1.
Ukraine has balked at ratifying the treaty, demanding financial help and international security guarantees in exchange. Some Ukrainian lawmakers have said the weapons should be kept.
But Kravchuk repeated Ukrainian pledges to become free of nuclear weapons by the year 2000.
"By becoming owners, we did not say that we are becoming a nuclear state. We have said that we are not changing our course and that we want to destroy these weapons," he told reporters in Kiev, the capital.
But Kravchuk said the SS-24 missiles, capable of carrying 10 warheads each, were not part of the START 1 treaty and should be subject to a separate deal.