The U.S. Senate may soon vote on whether or not to ratify the United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty, an agreement between some 150 countries that lays out the basic rights and responsibilities that countries have to the world’s marine resources. The treaty was signed by President Clinton in the 1990s but has never been ratified by the Senate. Historically, a handful of senators have resisted the treaty due at least in part to pressure from U.N.-wary conservatives acutely suspicious of the international body. But the melting Arctic has set the stage for countries with land in the far north to duke it out for rights to the largely untapped oil, gas, and minerals on the sea floor. Thus the Bush administration has been prodding the Senate to ratify the Law of the Sea, which would give the U.S. an even footing with the other Arctic nations staking claims in the area. The Senate Foreign Relations committee is expected to vote on ratification soon; a full Senate vote could follow some time after.

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