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A major point of contention is the so-called Lomonosov Ridge, a 1,240-mile underwater formation, which Russia says is an extension of its shelf.

“Oceanic ridges cannot be claimed as part of the state’s continental shelf, and the U.S. argues in its reaction to Russia’s first submission that this is exactly what Russia is doing,” Mr. Koivurova said.

Washington politics

The Bush administration has disputes with its fellow Republicans in Congress as well. Its hands are tied when it comes to making any claims to the U.N. commission until the Senate ratifies the Law of the Sea accord.

Ms. McMurray said the issue has become “very partisan” and, “looking at the calendar” with a shortened congressional session because of the presidential election, Senate ratification this year is a very long shot.

The pact is an ambitious effort to codify and enforce the “rules of the road” on the high seas. It touches on coastal sovereignty rights, navigation for commercial and military vessels, environmental protections and guidelines for mining, fishing, energy and other businesses that tap the wealth of the world’s oceans.

President Reagan refused to submit the original 1982 text to the Senate, but treaty proponents say the changes U.S. negotiators won in subsequent talks greatly improved the text and would lock in major benefits for both the U.S. military and U.S. businesses.

Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, last year blamed the long ratification delay on “ideological posturing and flat-out misrepresentations by a handful of amateur admirals.”

But Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, warned that the U.S. “standing in the world would suffer because” of the treaty.

“No matter how right we may be in our conduct on the high seas, this treaty will give our enemies the opportunity to stand in front of the United Nations and criticize the United States for its unwillingness to fulfill its treaty obligations,” he said in an opinion piece last fall in The Washington Times.