The Record
(Bergen County, NJ)
September 23, 1997



A year after signing it, President Clinton on Monday sent the Senate a global treaty banning nuclear-weapons tests, calling the pact the"longest-sought, hardest-fought prize in the history of arms control."

Clinton announced the action during his annual address to the United Nations General Assembly, an occasion he used to strongly endorse beefing up the international organization.

The comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty, which would outlaw all nuclear weapons tests, was adopted by the United Nations last September and signed by Clinton two weeks later.

The treaty will not take effect unless all 44 nations possessing nuclear power reactors ratify it.

India is believed to possess nuclear weapons, but is a treaty holdout. Pakistan, another probable nuclear nation, won't endorse the pact unless India does. India's prime minister, I. K. Gujral, in a private meeting Monday with Clinton, did not move any closer to the U.S. position, but he agreed to continue discussing the matter. Clinton also met with Pakistan's prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, but the leaders did not discuss the treaty.

Critics point out that rogue states such as North Korea, Iraq, and Libya also have not signed the pact.

The treaty's value therefore is more symbolic than binding, although most nuclear powers, including the United States and Russia, abide by its terms already.

The United States has not conducted a nuclear test since 1992.

A spokesman for Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Helms has ruled out any hearings this fall on the test ban treaty.

"This is definitely not a burning issue in the Senate,"the spokesman said."We've got a full plate of other issues, including NATO expansion and finalizing the United Nations reform package."

Asked whether Helms intended to bring it up next year, the spokesman replied: "It's not even on our radar screen, and certainly not in our Top 10 of issues. This could take 10 years to get done."

Even if Helms committee recommended the accord, its ratification would face a steep challenge in the full Senate, where 67 votes are needed to approve treaties. Assuming all 45 Democrats supported it, the treaty would have to attract 22 Republicans to achieve ratification.

Among Republicans, there appears to be little enthusiasm for banning nuclear tests. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., otherwise known as a strong internationalist, is cool to the idea. In the early 1990s, he opposed a test ban proposal by then-Sen. Mark Hatfield, R-Ore., and has since expressed his doubts about whether an airtight enforcement regime could be imposed to detect and deter cheating.

The senior Democrat on the foreign relations panel, Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, supports the treaty, but acknowledges it could face tough resistance in the Senate."It's not a lay-down. It's got a lot of complications,"he said through a spokesman.

If the 44 nuclear-reactor nations have not all ratified the treaty by the fall of 1999, the process calls for a majority of those that have ratified it to call a special conference aimed at persuading others to join. So far 146 nations have signed the treaty, but only four have ratified it.

Clinton's annual U.N. address was noteworthy in its embrace of the international organization, despite fears by some Americans that the United Nations has become too intrusive.

From fighting drug-traffickers to policing war-zone peace settlements, from spreading global wealth to slowing global warming, "the United Nations must play a leading role in this effort, filling in the fault lines of the new global era,"Clinton said."Through this web of institutions and arrangements, nations are now setting the international ground rules for the 21st century."

Clinton called for the creation of a permanent international court under U.N. auspices before 2000"to prosecute the most serious violations of humanitarian law."

The president also said he believes the Republican-majority Congress is ready to pay America's back dues to the United Nations and urged the General Assembly to support money-saving internal reforms pushed by Secretary General Kofi Annan.

The president glided by one point of possible friction with Annan, however, noting in passing that"we look to member states to adopt a more equitable scale of assessment"of U.N. dues.

That was a veiled reference to a U.S. proposal to cut U.S. dues to 20 percent of U.N. costs, down from 25 percent currently. To make up the difference, higher dues would be charged to Japan and other rising economic powers, mostly in Asia.

That U.S. dues cut is pivotal to a pending legislative compromise the Clinton administration negotiated with key GOP lawmakers in Congress. The United Nations says the U.S. owes about $ 1.3 billion in back dues, but the U.S. disputes $ 400 million of that amount.

In exchange for lowering the U.S. dues ratio, Congress would authorize $ 819 million over three years to cover unpaid U.N. dues. In addition, Congress would make those payments conditional upon measurable progress in U.N. budget and management reforms.

Annan is apparently unhappy about such conditions; in his opening address before Clinton spoke, Annan called on all U.N. members to support not only his reforms, but also to pay their dues"in full, on time and without conditions."

That muted point of contention was overwhelmed by Clinton's enthusiastic support for an expansive U.N. role, however. He saluted the World Trade Organization as integral to bringing order to growing global markets; the U.N.'s peace-keeping and democracy-building efforts as essential to spreading peace and prosperity; and efforts to support U.S.-led enforcement against drug, terror, and crime cartels.

This article contains material from the Associated Press.