Newsday (New York, NY)
September 23, 1997


BYLINE: By Josh Friedman

United Nations - President Bill Clinton announced yesterday he had formally asked the U.S. Senate to ratify a global nuclear test ban treaty that has eluded world leaders since the Kennedy administration.

As if assessing the historical impact adoption of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty would have, Clinton called it "our commitment to end all nuclear tests for all time, the longest-sought, hardest-fought prize in the history of arms control."

He chose his annual speech at the opening of the UN General Assembly session to announce he had sent the treaty to the Senate. He signed the treaty just after he spoke to the United Nations last year, the first of 146 leaders who have signed the bill.

Senate debate on the treaty is expected to be heated, but U.S. ratification is necessary to push other nuclear powers like Russia, France and China to ratify, arms control experts say. Then-President John F. Kennedy signed the documents of ratification for a nuclear test ban treaty with Britain and the Soviet Union in 1963.

While Clinton was exhorting other UN members to follow the U.S. lead, he pleaded with them to approve his administration's request to reduce the U.S. share of UN costs by adopting "a more equitable scale of assessment."

He linked a reduction of U.S. dues to U.S. support for enlarging the Security Council, a quid pro quo sought by Germany and Japan in exchange for making up for the shrinking U.S. financial role.

Clinton is virtually the only leader of a major country at this year's General Assembly session. At a luncheon given yesterday by Secretary General Kofi Annan, Clinton was flanked by President Milan Kucan of Slovenia and President Arnaldo Aleman Lacayo of Nicaragua.

Clinton was accompanied by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who will spend two weeks in New York meeting with other foreign ministers to persuade them to go along with a U.S. plan to change the way the United Nations is run and financed.

Ratifying the treaty and shrinking the U.S. role at the United Nations are linked to a delicate relationship between the Clinton administration and outspoken Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Jesse Helms (R-NC).

Reducing the U.S. share of UN general costs from the present 25 percent to a proposed 20 percent is one of the prices Helms exacted in exchange for going along with at least partial payment of the $1.5 billion the United Nations says the United States owes in back dues. A congressional conference committee is now working on a bill that would pay about $900 million of the debt, "an opportunity to put the questions of debts and dues behind us once and for all," Clinton said yesterday.

But there is little support for allowing the United States to shrink its role as the UN's biggest patron. Robin Cook, the foreign minister of Britain, one of Washington's closest allies, plans to demand in the General Assembly today that the United States pay everything it owes and continue to pay more than a 20-percent share, an aide said yesterday.

And in opening yesterday's session, Annan, Clinton's choice to lead the United Nations, said, "Some of you I ask to do what your legal obligations require: to liquidate your arrears and to pay your future assessments in full, on time and without conditions."

Despite nearly killing the recent chemical weapons ban, Helms is not likely to be able to block the Senate from voting on ratification of the test ban treaty, said John Parachini, a senior analyst and expert on the treaty at the Henry L. Stimson Center, a Washington-based think tank.

He said that Sen. Pete Dominici (R-N.M.) is already planning to hold hearings on the treaty in his appropriations subcommittee. While the major economic impact of a test ban would be on huge weapons laboratories in New Mexico, Dominici apparently has worked out a deal with the administration to keep the labs busy with other tasks, Parachini said. "This test ban treaty may turn out to be another struggle over ideology within the Republican Party," he said.

As if to underscore Clinton's belief that Congress is limiting his role at the United Nations, the president hailed TV mogul Ted Turner yesterday for promising last week to give $1 billion to the United Nations. Clinton said there is a potential in the private sector for more contributions. ***** OWING THE MOST. Here is the UN's calculation of the member nations with the highest outstanding contributions to the regular budget, peacekeeping operations and internationals tribunals. Figures are as of Aug. 31 and are in billiions of dollars. 1. United States $1.552 2. Russia $.259 3. Ukraine $.252 4. Japan $.105 5. Belarus $.063 6. Brazil $.036 7. France $.033 8. Iran $.0243 9. Germany $.024 10. Italy $.0236