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|September 29, 1998||
US moves closer to granting Clinton waiver on sanctions
Republican leaders are pushing forward with their $ 4 billion plan to aid America's farmers, giving thumbs up to a proposal already promised a presidential veto.
The aid plan was just one portion of the $ 61.3 billion agricultural spending bill approved by House and Senate agricultural budget writers yesterday. The bill must now go before the full Congress.
India and Pakistan got some relief in the agricultural bill. Lawmakers approved an amendment by Senator Sam Brownback that allows sanctions on India and Pakistan, imposed following nuclear tests by two countries, to be waived for one year.
"This gives the president waiver authority so he can continue to work with India and Pakistan to get them to do the things we want them to do,'' said Senator Tom Harkin.
A much-awaited debate on an abortion pill was also left unresolved by lawmakers. The provision would have restricted the food and drug administration's ability to use US money to test, develop or approve any drug that would induce an abortion, including the French pill RU-486. Lawmakers expect to come back possibly later this week to try to reach an agreement.
The government predicts farm income will drop nearly 16 per cent this year to $ 42 billion as the agricultural economy suffers through its worst downturn in more than a decade. A worldwide grain glut has pushed commodity prices to their lowest levels in memory.
Meanwhile, US Senate foreign relations committee chairman Jesse Helms and two other senators have opposed the idea of lifting of US economic sanctions and restrictions on the export of high-technology goods to India in return for New Delhi's acceptance of several arms control measures, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
In a joint letter to President Bill Clinton, they expressed their concern at recent press reports, indicating that the administration was negotiating such a deal with India.
They drew attention to a wire service report saying that the administration was in the closing stages of negotiating a deal under which the US would make these concessions, and in return India would agree to sign the CTBT, accept some unspecified restraints on fissile material production, ''commit itself not to export any sensitive nuclear or missile technology and agree not to openly deploy nuclear weapons, although it could make and store them.''
The senators said, "In our view, an offer to lift sanctions and technology transfer barriers on India in return for these arms control measures would be unwise.''
They said, ''An India pledge not to 'openly deploy' nuclear weapons would be unverifiable and would place few constraints on its nuclear programme.'' Under such a deal, "New Delhi would still be free to produce and stockpile nuclear weapons which could be rapidly deployed when tensions rise or covertly maintained in a deployed status,'' they added.
''We would also oppose lifting sanctions in order to convince India to sign the CTBT. As the recent Indian nuclear tests demonstrated, the CTBT is not adequately verifiable. According to the New York Times,the international monitoring system set up to verify compliance with the treaty only detected one of the five nuclear tests conducted by India.''
In addition, they pointed out, over the past 50 years, nuclear testing had been a critical element of efforts to maintain the viability of the US nuclear arsenal. ''Many defects in our weapons have only been detected and corrected through nuclear testing. The permanent ban on testing that would be imposed by the treaty would therefore jeopardise the safety and reliability of America's nuclear deterrent.''
The senators said, ''We do not believe it would be appropriate for the administration to relax controls on exports of high technology goods to India. In the wake of recent nuclear tests, several press articles noted the contribution that American-made equipment, such as computers and oscilloscopes, has made to the advancement of India's nuclear programme.''
They said, ''American know-how may also have made an important contribution. They quoted some media reports as suggesting that between 1994 and 1996, some 407 Indian nuclear scientists visited the Los Alamos national laboratory where they received instruction on a variety of topics including nuclear physics and metallurgy.''
Instead of trying to convince India to agree to a series of hollow arms control measures, they urged the president to focus US diplomatic efforts on addressing the underlying cause of tension in South Asia.
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