The Atlanta Journal and Constitution
September 23, 1997

Nuclear ban gets nudge by Clinton;
In pitch to U.N., he vows to push treaty to end tests fueling arms race

BYLINE: Bob Deans

United Nations ---Citing the need to build "a new strategy of security" for the 21st century, President Clinton on Monday asked the Senate to ratify a treaty calling for a global ban on nuclear weapons tests.

Calling the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty "the longest-sought, hardest-fought prize in the history of arms control," he said the ban would apply brakes to the global arms race.

"It will help to prevent the nuclear powers from developing mlre advanced and more dangerous weapons," Clinton said, and "it will limit the possibilities for other states to acquire such devices."

In a speech to U.N. ambassadors at the General Assembly, the annual U.N. business meeting, the president announced his intention to seek Senate ratification of the treaty. A year ago, the General Assembly adopted the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the United States and 145 other nations have signed onto the accord.

The Senate and the relevant legislative body of at least 43 other countries must ratify the treaty before it can take effect, a process that could take two more years.

India has insisted it will not ratify the ban, so the treaty's value is more symbolic than binding. Still, most nuclear powers, including the United States and Russia, already abide by its terms.

Senate passage is not assured, and there appears to be little enthusiasm among Republicans. Sixty-seven votes are needed for ratification, so if all 45 Democrats supported the pact, the support of 22 Republicans would be needed.

Clinton's short-term objective is to begin lobbying this fall for ratification next year.

"Our goal for this is to get the hearings started" in debate by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Bob Bell, a senior arms control adviser to the Clinton administration.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) has expressed reservations about the treaty, but Bell said, "We intend to win this vote, and failure is not an option."

The treaty is not at the head of Helms' agenda, and he has made no commitment on hearings or a final disposition.

Developing nuclear weapons requires periodic test blasts, often performed deep underground.

Such explosions usually can be detected by seismic equipment normally used to monitor earthquakes. Banning such tests would make developing or improving nuclear weapons difficult but would not, White House officials contend, undermine U.S. nuclear capability.

Opponents argue that U.S. weapons development could be impeded by the ban and that rogue states could find ways to circumvent the treaty.

Clinton says that limiting nuclear testing is a critical step in a larger effort to deny nuclear technology to outlaw states and terrorist groups that pose a menace to global peace and security.

"We're all vulnerable to the reckless acts of rogue states and to an unholy axis of terrorists, drug traffickers and international criminals. These 21st-century predators feed on the very free flow of information and ideas and people we cherish," Clinton said.

"We must face them together," he said, "because no one can defeat them alone." The rise of such groups has given new urgency to efforts to eliminate weapons of mass destruction.

"We cannot allow them to fall, or to remain, in the wrong hands," Clinton said.