RIGA, Latvia (AP) _ Belarus will return the last of its nuclear weapons to Moscow and become a nuclear-free country by week's end, a Belarusian official said.

Seven nuclear-tipped missiles were taken out of the former Soviet republic last week, Deputy Foreign Minister Valery Cepkalo said Friday on a visit to Latvia.

The missiles are fairly new and will not be dismantled, he said.

Belarus inherited part of the Soviet nuclear arsenal when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, as did Russia, Ukraine and Kazakstan.

The post-Soviet nuclear nations later joined the U.S.-Soviet START agreement on nuclear weapons reduction. Belarus, Kazakstan and Ukraine agreed to send their weapons to Russia to be dismantled.

President Clinton visited Belarus in January 1994 after it promised to get rid of its nuclear weapons.