WORKING TOWARD A COMMON U.S.-EUROPEAN UNION POSITION ON PROLIFERATION ISSUES--THE VIEWS OF UK FOREIGN SECRETARY ROBIN COOK -- HON. LEE H. HAMILTON (Extension of Remarks - March 17, 1998)

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HON. LEE H. HAMILTON

in the House of Representatives

TUESDAY, MARCH 17, 1998


HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,

COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS,
Washington, DC, January 22, 1998.

His Excellency Robin Cook,
Foreign Secretary, The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London SW1A 2AH, the United Kingdom

Dear Robin: It was a pleasure to meet you last Thursday, January 15, 1998 at your Embassy here in Washington. I enjoyed the opportunity to talk with you, and I benefitted from your comments.

I commend you for your close attention to the recent developments in Iran and Iraq. Continued close contact between the European Union and the United States on these and other issues will allow us to work constructively both to advance our shared interests and to resolve our differences. Your initiative to try to work on a common position toward proliferation issues involving Iran is particularly useful. I hope we can narrow our gap.

Thanks again for being so generous with your time. I wish you and your Government success during your EU Presidency period. I hope you will stay in touch on all matters of mutual interest.

With best regards,

Sincerely,

Lee H. Hamilton,
Ranking Democratic Member.

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Foreign & Commonwealth Office,
London SW1A 2AH, February 20, 1998.

Dear Lee, thank you very much for your letter of 22 January about the need to try to work towards a common European Union/United States position on proliferation issues. I too enjoyed our meeting in Washington.

The gap between the European Union and the United States on proliferation issues is, I believe, much smaller than many people in Congress think. The level of EU/US co-operation over Iran in particular is already very high. As you know, all members of the EU are active members of all the non-proliferation export control regimes: the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Zangger Committee, the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement. As such they apply stringent controls on the export of all dual use goods and missile technology to Iran. In addition to its regular expert level exchanges with the US over proliferation issues, the EU frequently concerts with the US in the margins of the plenary meetings of these regimes to maximise co-operation.

The real problem with transfer of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile technology to Iran does not, as the US State Department's own experts acknowledge, originate in the EU, but with third countries. The EU, working with the US, has been particularly active in applying political pressure on Russia, for example, to stop the leakage of ballistic missile technology to Iran. Tony Blair and other European leaders have raised their concern about this problem directly with President Yeltsin. At the EU/Russia Co-operation Council meeting on 26 January, I raised, on behalf of the EU, this question with Yevgeny Primakov. I encouraged him to ensure effective and rigorous implementation of the recent Russian executive order blocking the leaking of weapons of mass destruction technologies. Our Political Director, in his Presidency capacity, followed up a week later at a meeting of senior EU and Russian officials.

This joint pressure is beginning to have an effect. It is a good example of the way in which transatlantic co-operation over shared areas of real concern about Iran is beginning to bite. EU and US officials are working closely to find other ways of developing transatlantic co-operation over proliferation issues. A meeting of EU/US proliferation experts on 10 February identified a number of other ways in which co-operation might be enhanced. Future meetings of experts as well as senior officials will follow in the coming weeks.

When I was in Washington, I stressed my determination to use our Presidency of the European Union to work for greater convergence of EU/US policy towards Iran in our shared areas of real concern, Iran's attempts to acquire weapons of mass destruction and its support for terrorism. However, I also made clear that the EU did not believe in the economic and political isolation of Iran and opposed US extra-territorial legislation like the Iran Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA), which penalises EU companies engaged in legitimate commercial activity in Iran. We do not believe that economic sanctions against Iran will have a significant impact upon Iran's attempts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. The best way to hinder these is through effective export controls and joint political action with suppliers of technology, areas in which the EU is already extremely active. My concern is that ILSA acts as a major impediment to our joint efforts to enhance transatlantic co-operation in our shared areas of real concern. In the end, countries such as Iran benefit from our differences. I know this was not the intention of the authors of the Act. I hope you will work with your colleagues to try to find a way through these difficulties, so that we will find it easier to achieve our common goal, preventing Iran acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

Our Embassy in Washington would be happy to brief you and your colleagues in more detail on the non-proliferation and counter-terrorism measures the EU takes against Iran.

Yours Sincerely,
Robin Cook.