- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 1, 2000

LISBON President Clinton yesterday sought to reassure wary European leaders by offering to share America's missile-defense technology with other "civilized nations."

"I don't think that we could ever advance the notion that we had this technology designed to protect us against a new threat, a threat which was also a threat to other civilized nations who might or might not be nuclear powers but were completely in harness with us on a nonproliferation regime, and not make it available to them," Mr. Clinton said in a speech at Palacio Nacional de Queluz.

"I think it would be unethical not to do so. And that's always been my position, and I think that is the position of everyone in this administration."

Mr. Clinton's second term in office ends in January, which means approval and development of a missile-defense system will not take place during his administration.

Leaders of the European Union, who also attended yesterday's speech, fear an American missile-defense system would upset the balance of power between the West and Russia.

Mr. Clinton, who meets Saturday and Sunday in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin, downplayed expectations for an arms-control agreement.

"I would be surprised if we bridge all of our differences on Chechnya and I would be surprised if we resolve all of our differences on the question of missile defense, although we might make more headway than most people expect," Mr. Clinton said after he met with leaders of the European Union.

Mr. Clinton has not decided whether to pursue a limited missile-defense system, but still wants every "responsible" nation to have the benefit of U.S. technology if it is developed.

"If the United States had such technology and if the purpose of the technology is to provide protection against irresponsible new nuclear powers and their possible alliances with terrorists and other groups, then every country that is part of a responsible international arms-control and nonproliferation regime should have the benefit of this protection," Mr. Clinton said.

The president wants to share the technology, not build a larger missile-defense system to cover America's allies, as Texas Gov. George W. Bush proposes.

White House spokesman Joe Lockhart yesterday criticized Mr. Bush, the likely Republican presidential nominee, for declining a classified Pentagon briefing on missile defense offered last week by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen.

Mr. Bush has warned that a last-ditch arms pact in which Mr. Clinton agreed to reduce America's nuclear arsenal in exchange for permission to build a limited missile-defense system would tie the hands of America's next president. Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says such a deal would be dead on arrival in his committee.

The president's offer to share missile defenses appears identical to a 1992 proposal by Russian President Boris Yeltsin to create a Global Protection System (GPS). The system would be used to share anti-missile defenses with what Mr. Yeltsin, now retired, called "civilized" nations.

However, the Clinton administration pulled out of discussions with the Russians and rejected the idea. U.S.-Russian talks under Clinton administration arms-control policies shifted away from defenses in favor of preserving the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

The administration now wants to change the treaty and Russia is refusing to do so.

Keith Payne, a specialist on missile defenses, said the administration is adopting the same Russian proposal it rejected.

"What President Clinton has done, and I'm sure it's not by accident, is come back with the same language that President Yeltsin proposed in 1992," said Mr. Payne, president of the National Institute for Public Policy, a defense think tank in Virginia. "You've got Clinton coming back to the origins of GPS after his administration bailed out in 1993."

Mr. Clinton, continuing an eight-day European tour, will meet in Lisbon this morning with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak before flying to Berlin. Mr. Clinton spoke with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat by telephone for 20 minutes yesterday.

The talks come amid news that Syria has accepted Israel's terms for its withdrawal from southern Lebanon. Mr. Clinton is prodding Israel and the PLO to meet their self-imposed September deadline for a peace deal.

The European Union has taken no formal position on a potential American missile-defense system. But its leaders are wary of a unilateral move by the United States.

"We have, all of us, a main concern," said Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres, who is serving a six-month stint as president of the European Union.

"We live in a Northern Hemisphere where … we want to have a strong security situation," he said after summit talks at the ornate 18th-century palace that resembles Versailles.

"We believe that every new move to strengthen this must be as comprehensive as possible, as agreed [to] by everybody as possible and as corresponding as possible to everyone's concerns."

Romano Prodi of Italy, president of the European Union Commission, said "there is no division between the two sides of the Atlantic" and that the European leaders and Mr. Clinton held "a constructive and friendly talk" about security.

Mr. Prodi thanked Mr. Clinton for his support of the European Union by recalling John F. Kennedy's famous declaration: "Ich bin ein Berliner."

"Your predecessor, President Kennedy, was a Berliner," Mr. Prodi said. "You are not a Berliner, but a European, I'd say, because I think that you belong to our family."

Mr. Prodi minimized the trade disputes. He said disagreements are inevitable between the United States and the European Union, which together account for more than 40 percent of the world's trade.

"All trade disputes will be settled case by case" under rules of the World Trade Organization, Mr. Prodi said. "And we decided also that megaphone diplomacy will be replaced by telephone diplomacy."

Mr. Clinton, who spearheaded the coalition that intervened in Kosovo last year, wants to further unify Europe by promoting expansions of NATO and the European Union.

Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic have joined NATO in recent years. The leaders yesterday did not discuss potential new NATO members such as Lithuania and Latvia.

Mr. Clinton and the European leaders said they will accelerate their efforts to fight infectious diseases such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in Africa, by promoting research and development of drugs and vaccines.

• Bill Gertz in Washington contributed to this report.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide