The New York Times
September 23, 1997

Clinton, at U.N., Says He'll Press Senate on Test Ban Pact


Almost a year after signing it, President Clinton announced here today that he was asking the Senate to approve the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which he called "the longest-sought, hardest-fought prize in the history of arms control."

In a speech to the General Assembly that was intended to lay out his vision for protecting nations, human rights and the environment while fostering international prosperity, Mr. Clinton also urged the creation of a permanent international court by the end of the century to prosecute "the most serious violations of humanitarian law."

He spoke after the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, issued a tart plea for all nations to pay their debts to the United Nations, and Mr. Clinton promised that the United States would shortly repay most of the more than $1 billion that it owes. But mindful of the demands of Republicans in Congress, he continued to insist that the United Nations change its scale for assessing dues and ask less of the United States in the future.

While the President declared passage of the nuclear test ban treaty, which would ban all nuclear explosions, one of his top priorities, some senior Republicans said they doubted that the treaty would come to a vote this year.

For the bulk of his 21-minute address to the 52d session of the General Assembly, Mr. Clinton described what he saw as the possibilities at "the dawn of a new millennium" and the international arrangements necessary to take advantage of them.

"The forces of global integration are a great tide, inexorably wearing away the established order of things," he said. "But we must decide what will be left in its wake."

Declaring that "we're all vulnerable to the reckless acts of rogue states and to an unholy axis of terrorists, drug traffickers and international criminals," Mr. Clinton argued that military and trade alliances, as well as arms control agreements, could create a protective "web of institutions and arrangements."

Through such measures, he said, "nations are now setting the international ground rules for the 21st century, laying a foundation for security and prosperity for those who live within them, while isolating those who challenge them from the outside."

In his survey of binding international agreements, the President did not mention the ban on land mines drafted last week in Oslo. Although he called for such a ban in a speech here three years ago, the United States does not plan to sign the Oslo measure, because it did not include exceptions that the Clinton Administration said were essential for American security.

After his speech, Mr. Clinton attended a United Nations luncheon and also met individually with three foreign officials. In a half-hour conversation with Russia's Foreign Minister, Yevgeny M. Primakov, he discussed the state of the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. Mr. Primakov assured him that the Russians would not oppose elections that the Bosnian Serb President, Biljana Plavsic, has called for next month, according to an account of the meeting provided by Samuel R. Berger, Mr. Clinton's national security adviser.

Mr. Berger said Mr. Clinton had expressed concerns about a law passed by the Russian Parliament last week protecting the Russian Orthodox Church from competition from other Christian denominations.

Mr. Clinton also met today with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, and the Prime Minister of India, Inder Kumar Gujral. The Indians have resisted the test ban. But according to a State Department account of their meeting, Mr. Gujral assured the President that "we would be pleased to engage you in discussion" on the ban and other matters.

The White House waited a year to send the test ban treaty to Congress in part because it wanted to secure approval of a treaty banning chemical weapons first. Further, the Administration has been analyzing the treaty to see precisely what it prohibits.

"We've certainly not been idle," said Bob Bell, senior director of the National Security Council. "We've worked very, very hard on this the last year to get the whole package ready for the Senate."

Mr. Bell said that rather than testing, the United States would maintain its nuclear arsenal through a "science-based, stockpile stewardship program," costing about $4.5 billion a year. Some Senate Republicans, however, harbor doubts that such a program, which uses laboratory experiments and computer simulations, can effectively replace test explosions in maintaining the arsenal.

Marc A. Thiessen, a spokesman for Senator Jesse Helms, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the ban "is not something that's on the front burner of the committee right now." He noted that 44 countries believed to have some sort of nuclear capability, whether for electricity, weapons or research, must approve the treaty before it takes effect. "That's certainly not going to happen in the next year, and may not happen in the next decade," he said.

But the Administration argues that the United States should take a leadership role by approving the treaty soon. "We intend to win this vote, and failure is not an option," Mr. Bell said. Of the 44 countries that must approve the treaty, only Japan has done so. In all, 146 nations have signed the treaty.

In his speech today, Mr. Clinton said the United Nations could play a crucial role, not only in keeping the peace and protecting human rights, but also in making sure that "as the global economy creates greater wealth, it does not produce growing disparities between the haves and have-nots, or threaten the global environment -- our common home."

He praised Ted Turner, the broadcast executive who last week announced he would give $1 billion for United Nations projects, as "a truly visionary American."

"His gesture highlights the potential for partnership between the U.N. and the private sector," he said. "I hope more will follow his lead."

Mr. Clinton said Congress's move toward paying most of America's back dues reflected "a strong bipartisan commitment to the United Nations and to America's role within it."

He said that while he supported expanding the Security Council -- a move that has strong opposition in the Senate -- he also wanted to see the scale for assessing dues changed.

"In more equitably sharing responsibility for its successes," Mr. Clinton said, "we can make the U.N. stronger and more democratic than it is today."