Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms, R-N.C., served notice Monday that he will hold an international treaty banning chemical weapons hostage to his own foreign policy agenda, which includes reorganization of the State Department and reform of the United Nations.
Helms’ staff released a Jan. 29 letter from him to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., saying that “top Republican priorities” such as “legislation that ensures comprehensive reform of the United Nations” should come before consideration of ratifying the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Senate Republican aides said Lott, whose support for the chemical treaty is lukewarm at best, is inclined to let Helms have his way.
The treaty, one of the most ambitious global arms control agreements of recent years, was negotiated during a Republican administration and has been endorsed by many prominent current and former officials of both parties.
Aides to Helms portrayed his position as a test of the Clinton administration’s professed commitment to bipartisanship in foreign policy, saying that Helms is prepared to negotiate.