US Senate approves $650 bn defence budget for 2008

By RIA Novosti

Washington : The US Senate has approved a defence bill of $648.8 billion, which includes $225 million — 27 percent less than requested — for the deployment of missile defence systems in Central Europe.

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President George W. Bush had originally requested $310.4 million for the deployment of an anti-missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland, but the sum was cut by $85 million until negotiations have been completed with the host countries.

Financial and administrative restrictions were also introduced for the development of new nuclear warheads, known as the Reliable Replacement Warhead Programme, designed to produce reliable and safe warheads to adapt to changing military needs.

The budget, which was approved 92-3 Monday, will now go to the Congress for debate and drafting of the final document.

Almost $128 billion was allocated for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, in addition to $23.6 billion for the purchase of new Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, to protect US troops from roadside bombs. The sum will allow the Pentagon to replace all military jeeps in Iraq for the safer MRAP vehicles, with reinforced hulls.

The US announced its plans to deploy a radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland in January in defence against possible strikes from rogue states. Moscow has strongly opposed the US move and has repeatedly stated that the US missile shield could be used to undermine its military capability.