FILE ID:95033002.AAF




(FR) (Says prison sentences are unjustified) (830)

By Jim Fisher-Thompson

USIA Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Warren Christopher made plain to

Congress March 30 that the United States holds the government of Iraq

responsible for the well-being of two U.S. citizens who strayed across

its borders and have now been imprisoned in Baghdad.

Christopher told the House International Relations Committee that

"they innocently strayed into Iraq and their detentions and [prison]

sentences are totally unjustified. We have insisted that they be

released immediately."

He said he wanted to emphasize that "we hold the government of Iraq

directly responsible for their well-being and welfare during their

period of detention. We are pursuing a range of diplomatic channels to

secure their freedom, preserving all of our options in this process."

Christopher stressed that "Iraq will receive no concessions, it has

nothing to gain in continuing to hold these men. Their continued

detention demonstrates that Iraq is not qualified to reenter into

normal relations with the international community."

The secretary made his comments during an International Relations

Committee hearing considering the overall U.S. foreign affairs budget.

He told Committee Chairman Benjamin Gilman that "the international

affairs budget is an essential investment in our nation's security and


He said: "Consider what we get for our international affairs budget of

$21,200 million: Our budget protects American lives by combating the

spread of nuclear weapons, the threat of terrorism, and the scourge of

drugs. It supports American jobs by promoting U.S. exports and

creating new markets in developing countries. And it gives force to

the principles America stands for by bolstering human rights and

democracy around the world."

Chairman Gilman said that "with annual budget deficits running the

range of $200,000 million, there is no question that we must reshape,

reform, and reduce our assistance programs as well as the

organizations that implement them."

And he added that this means that "the foreign affairs budget will

have to contribute its fair share to [federal budget] deficit


Congressman Tom Lantos countered Gilman by saying he thought the

foreign affairs budget contained "the most effectively spent federal

dollars because they are designed to create a globe in which the

United States can live peacefully and trade productively."

Christopher said: "I understand it's a lot of money, but there is so

much disinformation about this in the press and the public mind. We've

all seen the polls that indicate that many people in America think we

could solve our budget problem if we just did away with foreign aid.

Estimates range that in the minds of the public, 10 to 25 percent of

our budget goes to foreign aid. And I think it's useful to let the

public know as often as we can tell them that only 1.3 percent of our

total budget goes to our entire international affairs account."

While foreign aid is only a part of that amount, about $5,200 million

of $21,200 million, the secretary emphasized that "I wouldn't be

recommending we spend that much if I didn't think that every dollar of

that gave back good value for the United States.... I think it is all

well justified."

On the issue of reform, Christopher told the committee that "each of

the foreign affairs agencies is proceeding vigorously with

streamlining efforts. I am convinced that ACDA [Arms Control and

Disarmament Agency], USAID [U.S. Agency for International

Development], and USIA [U.S. Information Agency] each has a distinct

mission that can best be performed if they remain separate agencies

under my supervision."

Asked about U.S. policy toward Iran, Christopher told the lawmakers:

"I think we need to continue our very strong policy of trying to

contain Iran."

He added that it was important to stick to this policy because "we've

been trying to show the rest of the world that Iran is in a category

all by itself in what they are doing to undermine the [Middle East]

peace process and projecting terrorism around the world."

Referring to the U.S. policy of pressing its allies to go along with

the Iran boycott, Christopher said America "needs to lead" here and

"we need to indicate by our own strong stance what we think the other

nations should do."

Commenting on the mysterious death and disappearance of two U.S.

citizens in Guatemala, Christopher announced that President Clinton

"today asked the Intelligence Oversight Board to conduct a

governmentwide review of all of the facts and allegations" surrounding

the deaths and disappearances.

Christopher said he wanted to assure the committee that his actions in

the affair would be guided by three basic principles: get at the

underlying facts, which will involve cooperation with the Guatemalan

government; when all the facts are in, take appropriate action; and

"we must make available to the American people all the information