September 23, 1997

Clinton: Ratify N-arms pact;
U.N. speech sets up clash with Senate

BYLINE: Judy Keen; Mimi Hall

UNITED NATIONS -- President Clinton said Monday that he will ask the Senate to ratify a controversial treaty banning nuclear test explosions.

Speaking at the opening day of debate at the United Nation's 52nd General Assembly, Clinton called the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty "the longest sought, hardest fought prize in arms control." He said the treaty will help "to prevent the nuclear powers from developing more advanced and more dangerous weapons."

His announcement sets the stage for a confrontation with Republicans in Congress. Many of them oppose the pact, arguing it would put the United States at a disadvantage in future hostilities. Clinton was the first of 146 world leaders to sign the treaty a year ago.

Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., chairman of a Governmental Affairs subcommittee, said he 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.

But Clinton's arms control adviser Robert Bell told reporters, "We intend to win this vote. Failure is not an option."

In a 19-minute speech, Clinton also said that the United States will pay "the bulk" of its $ 1.5 billion in delinquent dues. Aides said the United States plans to pay about $ 1 billion of that amount -- about what Congress has said it will pay.

Clinton also endorsed creation of an international court to prosecute crimes against humanity. He urged a battle against "21-st century predators" in crime cartels that drain up to $ 750 billion a year from the world's economies.

Clinton's speech got little response from U.N. delegates. Analysts attributed the silence to the dispute over back dues. "If he didn't have the millstone of the dues issue around his neck, he would have had everyone on their feet and applauding," said Jeff Laurenti, policy director at the United Nations Association of the United States of America.

The United States' debt became even more controversial among U.N. members last week when American media mogul Ted Turner pledged $ 1 billion over 10 years. In his opening speech, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said all members should pay future assessments "in full, on time and without conditions."

Some world leaders also criticized the United States for failing to endorse a treaty banning land mines. Luiz Lampreia, Brazil's foreign minister, called the land-mine treaty "a question of ethics."