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U.S. Seeks Halt To International Bribery

In a campaign to clean up international business and make competition fair, the Clinton administration is pressing the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to help crack down on bribery.

The United States wants the industrialized democracies to set examples by prohibiting businesses from claiming tax deductions for bribes paid to foreign officials - illegal here but not, for example, in Germany.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin said he will raise the issues at today’s meeting of G-7 finance ministers, and President Clinton has appealed in recent days to leaders of the Ukraine and African nations. G-7 is a grouping of major world economies.

The United States is among the few countries with laws against using bribery to further business deals abroad.

Many Third World nations have resisted following that lead to prevent Western values and practices from being imposed on them. Some American business people complain that as a result, the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, passed in the late 1970s, puts them at a competitive disadvantage.

World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn said a “tidal wave of interest” in stopping corruption in developing countries has developed since he called it a “cancer” on the global economy last October.

“People don’t like being poor, but they are prepared to put up with being poor if there is a future and if there is not inequity,” Wolfensohn said Friday. “But if they see a lot of people creaming money off the top, that gets them mad.”

Rubin said the United States will urge Wolfensohn and his counterpart at the International Monetary Fund, Michel Camdessus, “to expand the scope of their anti-corruption activities.”

“We urge the multilateral development banks to focus on establishing uniform rules” for World Bank and IMF projects, including a standard contract with a no-corruption pledge and “strong headquarters oversight.”

Rubin also will urge members of the 29-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to eliminate the tax deductibility of bribing foreign officials and to make it a crime under their laws.

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