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Huhne Against Trident Replacement

Liberal Democrat leadership contender Chris Huhne has moved to seize the initiative from his front-running rival Nick Clegg by breaking with party policy on keeping Britain's Trident nuclear missiles.

Huhne told The Observer it would be 'ridiculous' to spend up to £15bn updating the ageing submarine-based nuclear arsenal, describing it as a Cold War relic. He also argued this would risk further tying Britain to American policies, something he suggested should be avoided in the wake of the Iraq war.

Liberal Democrat leadership contender Chris Huhne has moved to seize the initiative from his front-running rival Nick Clegg by breaking with party policy on keeping Britain's Trident nuclear missiles.

Huhne told The Observer it would be 'ridiculous' to spend up to £15bn updating the ageing submarine-based nuclear arsenal, describing it as a Cold War relic. He also argued this would risk further tying Britain to American policies, something he suggested should be avoided in the wake of the Iraq war.

At this year's Spring Conference, the Liberal Democrats said a final decision on the sea-based nuclear arsenal should be deferred until 2014 by extending the lifespan of the current missiles. The possibility of supporting a new generation of Tridents with a reduced number of missiles and submarines was left open.

Huhne ruled this out. He said he favoured a less powerful, 'minimal' deterrent, even if that meant it would be 'more vulnerable' to attack by other nuclear powers.

The old Cold War presumption of a threatened Soviet first strike no longer made any sense, he argued. The current threats came from 'rogue states' or 'terrorists' and did not require a system like Trident to provide a deterrent.

'It would be ridiculous to replace the system with something of equivalent power, strength and lack of vulnerability. It will also make us dependent for decades to come on the US for maintenance,' he said.

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