DATE=2/4/97
TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT
NUMBER=5-35609
TITLE=SENATE / CHEMICAL WEAPONS
BYLINE=DAVID SWAN
DATELINE=SENATE
CONTENT=
VOICED AT:

INTRO: EVER SINCE LAST YEAR'S (U-S) ELECTION, REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS IN CONGRESS HAVE PROMISED TO WORK TOGETHER TO GET PRESIDENT CLINTON'S NEW TERM OFF TO A BIPARTISAN START. BUT THE WHITE HOUSE MAY HAVE TO FIGHT HARD FOR ONE OF ITS TOP PRIORITIES IN FOREIGN AFFAIRS -- RATIFYING A WORLDWIDE BAN ON CHEMICAL WEAPONS. SENATE CORRESPONDENT DAVID SWAN HAS DETAILS.

TEXT: REPUBLICAN SENATOR JESSE HELMS, THE POWERFUL FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN, HAS THROWN A ROADBLOCK IN FRONT OF THE CHEMICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION. THE CHAIRMAN DECLARES HE WILL NOT BRING THE TREATY UP FOR A RATIFICATION VOTE UNLESS THE SENATE APPROVES HIS OWN AGENDA FIRST.

AT THE TOP OF THE LIST IS A PLAN TO SHRINK THE FOREIGN AFFAIRS BUREAUCRACY AND ABOLISH THREE AGENCIES (U-S-I-A, A-C-D-A & A-I-D). THIS WAS THE FOCUS OF A BITTER, DRAWN-OUT STRUGGLE IN THE LAST CONGRESS. THE PROPOSAL EVENTUALLY DIED. BUT IN A RECENT SPEECH ON THE SENATE FLOOR, MR. HELMS VOWED TO REVIVE IT THIS YEAR.

// HELMS ACT. //

NONE OF US SHOULD BE WILLING TO STAND BY AND ALLOW AMERICA TO ENTER A NEW MILLENNIUM WITH ANTIQUATED FOREIGN POLICY INSTITUTIONS, BUILT -- LET'S FACE IT -- TO FIGHT THE COLD WAR. AND MARK MY WORDS -- IF I HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH IT, WE WILL NOT DO SO.

// END ACT. //

THE SENATOR ALSO WANTS COMPREHENSIVE REFORM AT THE UNITED NATIONS, A NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE NETWORK FOR THE UNITED STATES AND A ROUND OF TOUGH CONDITIONS APPLIED TO THE CHEMICAL WEAPONS AGREEMENT. MR. HELMS' COMMITTEE REJECTED SUCH CONDITIONS LAST YEAR AND THE SENATE APPEARED READY TO APPROVE THE PACT -- UNTIL REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE BOB DOLE ARGUED AGAINST IT.

THE TREATY OUTLAWS THE USE, POSSESSION AND PRODUCTION OF NERVE GAS, MUSTARD AGENT OR OTHER SUCH WEAPONS. ONE-HUNDRED-60 COUNTRIES SIGNED THE AGREEMENT. SIXTY-EIGHT HAVE RATIFIED IT SO FAR. THE PACT WAS NEGOTIATED BY U-S REPUBLICAN ADMINISTRATIONS AND IT HAS SUPPORT FROM MEMBERS OF BOTH MAJOR AMERICAN PARTIES. THE LATEST ENDORSEMENT CAME FROM RETIRED ARMY GENERAL NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF, WHO FACED THE THREAT OF IRAQI CHEMICAL ATTACKS IN THE GULF WAR.

// SCHWARZKOPF ACT. //

WE DON'T NEED CHEMICAL WEAPONS TO FIGHT OUR FUTURE WARFARES. AND FRANKLY BY NOT RATIFYING THAT TREATY WE ALIGN OURSELVES WITH NATIONS LIKE LIBYA AND NORTH KOREA AND I'D JUST AS SOON NOT BE ASSOCIATED WITH THOSE THUGS ON THAT PARTICULAR MATTER. SO I'M VERY, VERY MUCH IN FAVOR OF RATIFICATION OF THAT PARTICULAR TREATY.

// END ACT. //

CRITICS CHARGE THE ACCORD IS DEEPLY FLAWED. THEY SAY THE COUNTRIES MOST LIKELY TO USE CHEMICAL WEAPONS -- LIBYA, NORTH KOREA, IRAQ, AND SYRIA -- HAVE NOT EVEN SIGNED THE CONVENTION. OPPONENTS HAVE ALSO RAISED CONCERNS ABOUT RUSSIA'S NERVE GAS ARSENAL. AND THEY SAY THE TREATY WOULD FORCE U-S CHEMICAL COMPANIES TO GO THROUGH INTRUSIVE, PERHAPS UNLAWFUL INSPECTIONS.

IF THE SENATE DOES NOT RATIFY THE ACCORD BY APRIL 29TH, WHEN IT FORMALLY TAKES EFFECT, THE UNITED STATES WILL HAVE NO ROLE IN ENFORCING OR OVERSEEING THE PACT. CONGRESSIONAL DEMOCRATS ARGUE THIS WOULD BE DAMAGING, BOTH PRACTICALLY AND SYMBOLICALLY. SENATE MINORITY LEADER TOM DASCHLE SAYS SENATOR HELMS SHOULD THINK AGAIN ABOUT HOLDING UP THE TREATY.

// DASCHLE ACT. //

HE DREW THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN REPUBLICAN PRIORITIES AND THE ADMINISTRATION. WELL, WHEN IT COMES TO FOREIGN POLICY, I'D HOPE WE'D HAVE AMERICAN PRIORITIES. AND FROM AN AMERICAN POINT OF VIEW, OUR PRIORITY OUGHT TO BE REAFFIRMING OUR SUPPORT FOR THE CHEMICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION.

// END ACT. //

THE WHITE HOUSE SAYS RATIFICATION IS STILL ONE OF ITS MAIN FOREIGN POLICY GOALS. OFFICIALS SAY THEY WILL WORK CLOSELY WITH MR. HELMS TO SETTLE THE DISPUTE. (SIGNED)

NEB / DS / BD /RRM

04-Feb-97 2:29 PM EST (1929 UTC)

Source: Voice of America