The Tampa Tribune
September 23, 1997

Clinton urges end to nuclear tests

SUMMARY: In an address to the United Nations, the president also says the $ 1 billion U.S. debt to the organization will be paid.

UNITED NATIONS - President Clinton called on world leaders Monday to "end all nuclear tests for all time" and sent the long-delayed global test-ban treaty to the Senate, where he hopes to overcome Republican objections.

Announcing his action in an address to the United Nations' 52nd General Assembly, Clinton called the treaty "the longest sought, hardest fought prize in the history of arms control."

He signed the accord a year ago but did not submit it to the Senate while White House lobbyists tried to build support.

In a 19-minute speech to U.N. delegates, the president also pledged that the United States would pay nearly $ 1 billion in past-due U.N. fees to "put the question of debts and dues behind us once and for all."

Congress is expected to authorize about $ 900 million for the United Nations, provided the organization does not expand beyond current levels and agrees to put in a separate fund an additional $ 400 million that the United Nations claims it is owed but the United States has contested. The United Nations wants U.S. payments with no strings attached.

Clinton's submission of the test-ban treaty is expected to stir opposition from GOP senators who don't trust arms control agreements or who insist testing is needed to maintain America's nuclear stockpile.

The debate probably will restore battle lines from the vote on the Clinton-backed chemical weapons treaty, ratified in April after many lawmakers remained undecided until the last minute. The president needs about 22 Republican senators to join Democrats in support of the treaty.

"We intend to win this vote and failure is not an option," said Robert Bell, a White House arms control adviser.

Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., chairman of the Governmental Affairs subcommittee that handles this issue, said his panel will hold a hearing next week on whether the United States can count on its nuclear weapons to work without testing.

"If it creates a more dangerous environment and is an incentive for others to cheat and steal a march on the rest of the world and puts us at risk, then we would make a bad mistake to approve the treaty," he said.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., a supporter of the treaty, said the pact "is a major part of what needs to be done in order to move into that post-nuclear age."

During a U.N. visit a year ago, Clinton became the first world leader to approve the historic Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits all nuclear test explosions. The last U.S. nuclear test was in 1992.

The Senate and the legislative bodies of at least 43 other countries must ratify the treaty before it takes effect, a process that could take another two years. So far, 146 nations have signed the treaty, but only four have ratified it. A Senate vote is expected in the spring. Under the treaty, all 44 nuclear-capable countries must ratify it for it to take effect.

Critics say rogue states such as North Korea, Iraq and Libya also have not signed the pact.