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ABM Treaty suit dismissed

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A federal judge Monday dismissed a lawsuit brought by 32 members of Congress against President Bush challenging his unilateral withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

In a 31-page opinion, U.S. District Judge John Bates said "issues concerning treaties are largely political questions best left to the political branches of the government, not the courts, for resolution."

The ABM Treaty was a vital arms control agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Bush claimed it became outdated after the Cold War, and the United States needed to develop missile defenses to protect itself from attacks by small countries with missiles and animosity toward the United States.

Led by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, the lawmakers sued Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, arguing a president cannot terminate a treaty without congressional consent.

The White House countered that the congressmen lacked standing to bring the suit and that the Constitution allows a president to withdraw from a treaty.

Bates wrote that the lawmakers had equally effective means to pressure Bush to obtain congressional consent before terminating the treaty, such as denying funding or passing legislation prohibiting the development or deployment of ABM systems.

"Judicial action might simply encourage congressmen to run to court any time they disagreed with presidential action [on a treaty or other foreign relations issue] or were on the losing end of a piece of legislation," Bates wrote.

The judge also agreed with the White House that the plaintiffs lacked authority to sue, noting that the 32 congressmen were not authorized to sue on behalf of the House of Representatives, and that neither the House nor Congress had made any attempt to disapprove Bush's move since he announced it a year ago.

The United States and the Soviet Union entered into the bilateral ABM Treaty on October 3, 1972. The agreement limited the number and location of anti-ballistic missile systems that each side could deploy for defense against nuclear missile attacks.

Both nations agreed not to develop ABM technology and not to test or deploy such technology.

Bush believed that the world's political landscape changed enough since the time of the treaty: The Cold War came to a close at the end of 1989 as the Soviet Union and Iron Curtain disintegrated into various independent nations. On December 13, 2001, he gave Russia six months' notice of the United States' plan to withdraw.

Many European allies warned the move was likely to set off a new arms race with Russia, but Russia itself entered into negotiations with the United States that resulted in a treaty designed to reduce by two-thirds over the next decade the number of actively deployed nuclear warheads in each country's arsenal.

The withdrawal took effect in June, at which time Bush stressed his commitment to building a missile defense system as soon as possible to protect the country against "growing missile threats."

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