The Gazette
September 23, 1997

Clinton puts heat on test-ban treaty


A year after signing a nuclear test ban treaty, President Bill Clinton told the United Nations yesterday that he will send the pact to the U.S. Senate for ratification.

Clinton called the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which bans nuclear-weapon tests, "the longest-sought, hardest-fought prize in the history of arms control."

But the treaty, even if ratified by the Senate, might have limited effect.

Governments in the 44 nations with nuclear power or research reactors must ratify the agreement before it becomes international law. India has refused.

The five major nuclear powers - Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S. - have signed the treaty but have not yet ratified it.

The president was the first of 146 world leaders who signed the treaty when he made his annual address last year to the United Nations General Assembly.

The president later met individually with Prime Minister Mohammad Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan and Prime Minister I.K. Gujral of India.

If India continues to refuse to sign the treaty for at least three years, the other nations can call a conference and enact some provisions of the treaty by consensus.

The president, in his UN remarks, said the treaty would "end all nuclear tests for all time" while preventing the world's nuclear powers from developing "more advanced and more dangerous weapons." It also would limit the prospects of other nations' developing nuclear weapons.

The treaty may face uncertain prospects in the Senate, where members are awaiting explanation of a "seismic event" in Russia recently. Russians dismissed the event as an earthquake. Some U.S. officials have questioned whether it was an explosion. Some Republicans oppose the treaty, contending it would hamper U.S. weapons development.

Clinton praised the reform efforts by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is trying to streamline the world body's operations. The president said the United States will repay the bulk of the $1 billion in back payments it owes the United Nations. Congress has blocked payment to the United Nations in an effort to spur cost-saving changes.

"This year, 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.

Legislation pending in Congress would pay about $900 million in overdue bills to the United Nations. The United States, the UN's largest contributor, is seeking to have its contribution level reduced to 20 per cent from 25 per cent.