International Herald Tribune
(Neuilly-sur-Seine, France)
September 23, 1997

Clinton, at UN, Vows to Seek Approval for Test Ban Treaty

BYLINE: By Brian Knowlton

President Bill Clinton said Monday that he would immediately ask the Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which he called ''the longest sought, hardest fought prize in arms control.''

Arms-control specialists welcomed Mr. Clinton's call, saying it would increase pressure on other nations that have nuclear weapons to proceed with ratification.

In a speech to the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Clinton also called for the creation, before the end of the century, of a permanent international court to ''prosecute the most serious violations of humanitarian law.''

He also promised that after years in arrears, the United States would pay nearly $1 billion in back dues to the United Nations. He praised the broadcasting magnate Ted Turner for his recent pledge of $1 billion to the international organization

Finally, Mr. Clinton said that the United States would promote an expansion of the UN Security Council to better reflect changing international realities. The administration has said that Germany and Japan should be included among the permanent members of the council, and has said that three other seats should be added on a rotating basis.

The president's decision to use the UN speech as a platform from which to seek Senate ratification of the test ban treaty, which he had signed a year ago at the United Nations, was welcomed in arms-control circles.

Spurgeon Keeny, president of the Arms Control Association, said that Mr. Clinton's announcement was a ''timely move to send this forward.''

Mr. Keeny, a former deputy director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, said that the issue of a comprehensive ban had not fully captured senators' attention. But he added that ''after some stormy and extensive debate, I think it will pass.''

Mr. Clinton called the test ban treaty ''our commitment to end all nuclear tests for all time, the longest sought, hardest fought prize in the history of arms control.''

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

Mr. Clinton was the first world leader to sign the treaty. Representatives of the other four major nuclear powers also signed it last year at the UN.

He had delayed sending it to the Senate in part to build support for the measure, and in part because the Senate was occupied with other arms-control issues, including ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

A test ban has long faced substantial opposition in Congress, particularly by Republicans.

But Mr. Keeny noted that the treaty had gained two influential advocates: the U.S. military, and the weapons laboratories that contract with the Energy Department to test nuclear weapons and their components for continued reliability.

Mr. Keeny said the Senate debate was ''certainly not going to be a walkover,'' but he predicted the treaty would ultimately receive the two- thirds majority required for ratification.

The General Assembly adopted the treaty last year, and 146 nations have signed it. But only a handful have ratified it, and none of the five major nuclear weapons states have done so.

Mr. Clinton's announcement will increase pressure on India, which has said it will not sign the treaty but which, along with 43 other actual or potential nuclear powers, has the ability to block it. The president was to meet Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral later in the day.

All countries are believed to have observed a moratorium on testing since July 29, 1996, when China tested a nuclear device. Before that, the last explosion was by France, on Jan. 27, 1996.

Mr. Clinton urged all nations to put the treaty into force as soon as possible.

He also called for an expansion of the Security Council, which now has five permanent and 10 rotating members. On Friday, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had indicated her support for proposals to give Germany and Japan permanent seats, and to add one rotating seat each for Latin America, Africa and Asia.