(Senate action "monumentally important" to U.S. and world)

By Wendy S. Ross
USIA White House Correspondent - 04 April 1997

Washington -- President Clinton says it is "monumentally important"
for the United States and the world that the U.S. Senate consent to
U.S. ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) before the
treaty goes into force April 29.

At a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House April 4, Clinton
urged the Senate "to act in the highest traditions of bipartisanship
and in the deepest of our national interest."

Ratification of the treaty "says America is committed to protecting
our troops, to fighting terror, to stopping the spread of weapons of
mass destruction, to setting and enforcing standards for international
behavior and to leading the world in meeting the challenges of the
21st Century," Clinton said.

Attending the ceremony was a distinguished gathering of former and
present U.S. officials, military officers, arms control negotiators
and scientists from the Clinton, Bush and Reagan administrations.

They included Vice President Al Gore, Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright, Defense Secretary William Cohen, former Secretary of State
James Baker, former Republican Senators David Boren and Nancy
Kassebaum-Baker and General Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff during the Bush administration and in the first year of the
Clinton administration.

The bipartisan expression of support for the CWC sends "a clear,
unambiguous united message to America and to our Senate" of the need
for ratification, Clinton said.

He warned that if the Senate fails to ratify the Convention before the
April 29 deadline "our national security and, I might add, our
economic security will suffer. We will be denied use of the treaty's
tools against rogue states and terrorists. We will lose the chance to
help to enforce the rules we helped to write or to have Americans
serve as international inspectors -- something that is especially
important for those who have raised concerns about the inspection
provisions of the treaty.

"Ironically, if we are outside this agreement rather than inside, it
is our chemical companies, our leading exporters, which will face
mandatory trade restrictions that could cost them hundreds of millions
of dollars in sales. In short order, America will go from leading the
world to joining the company of pariah nations that the Chemical
Weapons Convention seeks to isolate. We cannot allow this to happen."

Clinton called the push for ratification a "monumentally important
effort. We must not fail. We have a lot of work to do, but I leave
here today with renewed confidence that together, we can get the job

The treaty bans the production, acquisition, stockpiling and transfer
of chemical weapons. As of March 3, it had been signed by 130
countries, including the United States, and ratified by 70 countries.

Acknowledging that the convention has its skeptics, Clinton said: "Of
course the treaty is not a panacea. No arms control treaty can be
absolutely perfect and none can end the need for vigilance. But no
nation acting alone can protect itself from the threat posed by
chemical weapons. Trying to stop their spread by ourselves would be
like trying to stop the wind that helps carry their poison to its
target. We must have an international solution to a global problem."

Secretary of State Albright said there is "broad, bipartisan and
growing support" for the treaty. Its ratification, she said is a test
of our ability to follow through on our commitments.

Defense Secretary William Cohen, a former Republican Senator, said
ratification of the treaty "is a critical test of American

Former Secretary of State James Baker pointed out that the treaty had
been negotiated in the Reagan and Bush administrations and failure to
ratify it would send "a clear signal of retreat from international
leadership to our allies and enemies alike."

Baker said any allegation that the CWC would undermine national
security "is outrageous." If we fail to ratify it, we will postpone
indefinitely any progress on biological weapons and isolate ourselves
from our friends in the international arena and throw in our lot with
the rogue states, he said.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, Jesse Helms
(Republican-North Carolina), who opposes the treaty in its present
form, has been blocking it from coming to a vote in the Senate.

If the treaty is not ratified by the April 29 deadline, automatic
trade sanctions kick in that would prove detrimental to U.S. chemical
companies, Undersecretary of Commerce William Reinsch told the press.
The convention imposes trade sanctions against those that don't join,
he explained, and the U.S. chemical industry could lose as much as
$600 million dollars annually.

The United States is going to eliminate its chemical weapons, whether
it ratifies the treaty or not said Robert Bell, Special Assistant to
the President and National Security Council Senior Director for
Defense Policy and Arms Control. By law, the United States must do
this, he said.

The importance of U. S. ratification of the treaty by the deadline, he
said, is that it will enable the United States to expand that policy
to other nations and will permit it to be part of the May 6 The Hague
conference which will organize implementation of the convention.

Bell said that since the end of January, White House officials have
been working with Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott
(Republican-Mississippi) and other members on moving the treaty to a
vote in the Senate.

Senator Helms and Senator Joseph Biden, the ranking Democrat on the
Foreign Relations panel, have been in negotiations as well, he said.

"We've been in a good faith effort to address" the Helms' concerns
about the treaty, Bell said, adding that "we've gone as far as we can,
it's time to vote." The treaty, he pointed out, does not allow
amendment, and consent to ratification requires that two-thirds of the
Senators vote for it.

General Powell told reporters "it's a good treaty because it serves
America's interest" and "the interest of the world." He said "it
affects no Department of Defense program, it makes future battlefields
safer for American troops, and not to be in the treaty would do
violence to our commercial interests. By any measure it is a treaty
that should be ratified and I've felt that way for nine years now. No
U.S. military program is adversely affected by this treaty. We're
getting rid of chemical weapons," he said, and "we ought to be on the
side of those who are outlawing this horrible weapon."

Powell predicted that the Senate would recommend ratification of the
treaty, even though "a number of Senators still have serious
reservations," about it "and will probably vote against" ratification,
he said.

White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said the push for Senate
ratification is "uphill but not too steep. We are confident that we've
got a winning argument and we will be making it aggressively in the
course of this month, and working hard from the President on down to
convince Senators of the merits of ratification" he said.