The Buffalo News
September 23, 1997


BYLINE: John F. Harris

One year after he came here to sign a global treaty banning nuclear weapons testing, President Clinton Monday told the General Assembly that he is ready to send the treaty to the Senate for ratification, beginning what senior administration officials said could be a hard-fought, months-long debate with arms control skeptics.

Clinton last year signed the treaty with a flourish, boasting that his administration brought to fruition an idea that had eluded arms control negotiators for nearly four decades. But other priorities, including the need to lobby the Senate to approve a chemical weapons treaty, delayed action on the test ban treaty.

At his annual appearance here, Clinton told the 52nd session of the General Assembly that "our common goal" should be for the testing ban to enter "into force as soon as possible." The United States and the four other major nuclear powers -- Russia, China, Britain and France -- have pledged to abide by terms of the treaty, although seismic readings recorded last month have raised questions about whether Russia conducted a secret test.

Clinton also said pending legislation makes him more confident than ever that the United States will soon repay its long overdue bill to the United Nations, but warned the money will come with strings attached. He and U.S. lawmakers want other nations to pay a larger share of U.N. costs in the future.

But Clinton's linkage of back dues -- the United States pays the largest share of U.N. costs but is in arrears by more than $ 1 billion -- to an agreement on a "more equitable" funding formula puts him at odds with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Moments before Clinton spoke, Annan lectured nations that are behind in payments to "do what your legal obligations require: to liquidate your arrears, and to pay your future assessments in full, on time, and without conditions."