February 9, 1997 in Nation/World

Bush Urges Ratifying Arms Treaty

 

Ban on chemical weapons held up in Senate by Helms Associated Press HOUSTON In a welcome boost for the Clinton administration, former President Bush urged a reluctant Senate to ratify a chemical weapons treaty he helped bring to life in the closing years of the Cold War.

“I have a certain feeling of fatherhood for that” treaty, Bush told reporters Saturday in a joint appearance with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at his home.

“It is vitally important that the United States be out front, not to be dragged kicking and screaming” into codifying a treaty that will ban not only the use but also the development, production and stockpiling of poison gases, he said.

Opposition in Congress is led by Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He has the treaty bottled up in committee, because he fears it cannot be adequately enforced and because he wants to force administration concessions on other issues.

Winning Senate ratification is among President Clinton’s top second-term priorities. He pledged last fall: “I will not let this treaty die.”

Bush and Albright talked to reporters in his driveway, with the former president’s wife, Barbara, and their dog Millie looking on. Over a breakfast, Bush and Albright discussed foreign policy and agreed that a bipartisan approach is needed to matters such as arms control.

The Bush administration signed the chemical treaty in 1993, but the Senate has not ratified it. The treaty takes effect April 29 even if the Senate fails to act, but Clinton wants ratification before then to ensure a leading U.S. role in establishing guidelines to implement it.

More than 160 nations have signed the treaty, and 68 have ratified.

Asked whether he would personally press Helms to put the treaty to a Senate vote, Bush said, “I’m out of the lobbying business.” But he expressed the hope that Helms will take note of his strong words Saturday.


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