USIS Washington File

02 March 1999


(Cites DOE efforts in energy and non-proliferation efforts) (830)
By Susan Ellis
USIA Staff Writer

Washington -- Achieving Senate passage of the Comprehensive Test Ban
Treaty (CTBT) is a priority for the Clinton Administration, says
Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Bill Richardson. Speaking to the
National Press Club March 2, he said CTBT "is an issue where the whole
cabinet is going to be deployed" to urge ratification.

"I believe that if this bill is allowed on the floor of the Senate, we
can get the votes. We are building support," Richardson said, adding
that he gives odds of "better than 50-50" for passage.

"There's going to be a very, very active concerted effort. This is an
issue where the whole cabinet is going to be deployed," he continued.
"I believe if we're going to encourage India and Pakistan to sign the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, if we are going to participate in an
upcoming meeting where we engage in strategy to improve nuclear safety
and other ways to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons, it is
critically important that we pass CTBT this year."

On the subject of Russia, Richardson was asked where the money would
come from for programs DOE is conducting to upgrade that country's
nuclear weapons accounting system and to employ Russian scientists at
home in non-weapons capacities to keep them "from selling out to rogue
nations." He responded that Congress must "realize that this is not
Russian foreign aid....These are programs in our national security."

Richardson said the President has asked for $525 million over the next
four years for the Russian programs, adding he believes Congress "will
respond positively," although "there are those critics who don't want
to invest in this potentially most urgent national security threat
that we have."

Asked whether Russia's vast nuclear stockpile, "powerful presence of
organized crime," and backwardness on preparations to avert Year 2000
computer problems are not "becoming a recipe for a terrorist
disaster," Richardson countered that he has asked the appropriations
committees in Congress to "reprogram some funds to deal with the
Russian Y2K problem."

"There is a problem in their reactors and potentially at some of their
weapons sites," he acknowledged, saying he is "challenging Congress"
to grant about $15 million to rectify the problems. Although Congress
has not yet responded, Richardson said he hopes to have a good
response in the days ahead.

In terms of chemical-biological defense efforts, he said a $32 million
request strikes him "as a good investment." For DOE's national
laboratories, Richardson said he has asked for two things: "that we
have a joint national center among our labs to improve response and
detection; and most important, to come up with some timelines that are
useful for probably the next huge event on our shores that involves
potential threats and that's the Olympics."

Of his recent meeting with Venezuela's new minister of energy and
mines, Ali Rodriguez-Araque, Richardson said the United States wants
to expand its energy ties with Venezuela. "We think that Venezuela is
a leader. They are our "number one" or "number two" provider of oil --
it's either them or Saudi Arabia, it depends. Every month it changes,"
he said, adding, "We want to have Venezuela respect the sanctity of
our contracts (in that country). We want Venezuela to keep the opening
for American and foreign investment in Venezuela in the energy sector.
We think that's been a good policy and we see no reason why this
policy won't be continued."

He added, "What we want to do with Venezuela is develop markets for
our independents in the gas area, and in other energy and technology
arenas. But Venezuela and the United States right now, and Mexico,
will soon be working together to develop a hemispheric energy meeting,
to talk about energy cooperation and also climate change."

Richardson harked back to his previous post as U.S. Ambassador to the
United Nations to answer a charge that the UN weapons inspections in
Iraq had failed.

He said UNSCOM has not failed. "Since the end of the Persian Gulf War,
the UN inspectors, UNSCOM, have destroyed over 60,000 weapons of mass
destruction. The capability of Saddam Hussein in that area has been
contained. But he remains a threat.

"The United States is not going to lift sanctions; we're going to
continue a policy of containing him (Saddam Hussein). I recently read
that he is now considering cooperating with the United Nations again
on the inspections. That remains to be seen; his word has not been
good. But look at where we are now. We have effectively contained him;
we have used force where necessary to send that message. A lot of his
infrastructure has been hurt or destroyed. He is a pariah in the
region. I think our policy has worked."