WASHINGTON -- President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan assured President Bush yesterday that he will eliminate all 1,400 strategic nuclear warheads in his former Soviet republic, clearing a major obstacle to implementing last year's historic Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
His pledge advances the U.S. efforts to avoid a possible arms race among the four nuclear powers that emerged from the ruins of the Soviet Union -- Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus -- by bringing them under START.
That treaty, between the United States and now-defunct Soviet Union, calls for substantial reductions in the U.S. and Soviet nuclear arsenals.
"Kazakhstan obligates itself to honor the START treaty as one of the participating parties," Mr. Nazarbayev said, standing alongside Mr. Bush in the White House Rose Garden after their meeting.
As a result, U.S. officials believe they are close to being able to conclude an agreement with all four former republics to honor the START treaty, with only Russia retaining nuclear weapons at the end of the treaty's seven-year timetable for arms reductions.
That START protocol may be signed as early as this weekend in Lisbon, Portugal, when Secretary of State James A. Baker III expects to meet with senior officials from the four republics during a conference on aiding the former Soviet Union.
Mr. Nazarbayev also told Mr. Bush that his country will prevent nuclear weapons or technology from being sold to other countries.