The Boston Globe
September 23, 1997

Clinton pushes for test ban approval; In a speech to UN General Assembly, he also offers a plan for US to repay its debt

BYLINE: By Brian McGrory

President Clinton sent the nuclear test ban treaty to the Senate for ratification yesterday, launching a campaign to prohibit all nuclear explosions for the rest of time.

"It will help to prevent the nuclear powers from developing more advanced and more dangerous weapons," Clinton said in a speech at the 52d gathering of the United Nations General Assembly. "It will limit the possibilities for other states to acquire such devices."

Clinton signed the treaty here a year ago, but had yet to ship it to Capitol Hill for ratification. It is expected to meet considerable resistance from senators who argue the United States must regularly test parts of its nuclear arsenal to be assured of readiness.

Asked after the speech about prospects for ratification, Clinton's arms control adviser, Robert Bell, said: "We intend to win this vote and failure is not an option."

At the outset of the annual UN meeting, Clinton began the task of persuading the world body to initiate extensive reforms in exchange for an agreement by the United States to pay the bulk of its $ 1 billion debt to the organization.

US officials say the United Nations must restructure its assessments to lower the annual US payment from 25 percent of the UN budget to 20 percent. The United States also says the United Nations must accept an $ 819 million US payment to forgive the current US debt. A repayment and reform package acceptable to the White House has been approved by the Senate and is supported by Senator Jesse Helms, Republican of North Carolina, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, a staunch UN opponent. Senate leaders are still working with the House to put together a final version.

"This time, for the first time since I have been president, we have an opportunity to put the questions of debts and dues behind us once and for all, and to put the United Nations on a sounder financial footing for the future," Clinton said from the marble-appointed well of the General Assembly hall.

"Our Congress' actions to solve this problem reflects a strong bipartisan commitment to the United Nations and to America's role within it," Clinton said. He outlined several proposals, including new assessments, and added, "I ask the General Assembly to act on these proposals this year so that we can move forward together."

Just before Clinton's address, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan stood in the same well and warned all leaders that member nations must pay their dues and debt without conditions.

Later, when Clinton's National Security Adviser Alexander Berger was asked how the administration could reconcile Clinton's proposal with Annan's words, he responded, "Skillfully."

For Clinton, it was a day of high level diplomacy that included meetings with leaders from India, Pakistan and Russia. Later he attended a Metropolitan Opera performance of "Carmen."

In his 19-minute UN speech, Clinton also called for an international court to try and punish human rights violators who might not easily be tried within a specific country.

On the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Clinton described the measure as "the longest-sought, hardest-fought prize in the history of arms control." So far, 146 nations, including Russia and China, have signed it, but only four have officially ratified it.

The United States has not conducted a nuclear test since 1992. The Senate is not expected to put the treaty to a vote until sometime next year.

India is the most significant country that has yet to back the treaty, and if India fails to give its support, leaders of neighboring Pakistan said it would also reject the pact.