- The Washington Times - Monday, October 30, 2000

Ten senior U.S. Republican senators have ordered the State Department to turn over "all the relevant documents" relating to a secret deal Vice President Al Gore made with Russia on arms sales to Iran by noon today.

If they don't, the Senate will subpoena the documents.

The senators sent the letter to Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright on Thursday. The documents they demand are about a 1995 agreement Mr. Gore made with Viktor S. Chernomyrdin, who was prime minister of Russia, in which the vice president exempted Russia from a law requiring that economic sanctions be imposed on countries that sell arms to nations that sponsor terrorism, including Iran.

One of the authors of the letter to Mrs. Albright, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, referred to the senators' demands in an interview yesterday on ABC's "This Week."

"When you look at what happened there with that Iranian-Russian agreement, that goes to the fundamental question of judgment by Vice President Al Gore. What he did with the Russians involving the shipment of those weapons to Iran questions his judgment and, in my opinion, is illegal," Mr. Lott said.

"If they don't give us the documents we've asked for, we're going to subpoena those documents next week. That is wrong. And that's the kind of thing that people need to know about Vice President Gore that hasn't been fully developed yet."

State Department officials denied claims that Mr. Gore made secret deals in allowing Russia to sell submarines and other advanced weapons to Iran.

But in the Gore-Chernomyrdin agreement, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, Mr. Gore said the United States would not impose sanctions on Russia, as required under U.S. law, in exchange for Moscow's promise to end arms sales to Iran by Dec. 31, 1999.

The Times also obtained a letter in which Mr. Chernomyrdin asked Mr. Gore not to tell Congress about Russia's secret nuclear cooperation with Iran, and it reported that the vice president complied.

In addition, Mrs. Albright sent a third letter last January to Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, in which she complained that Russia was continuing to ship arms to Iran beyond the Dec. 31 deadline.

In the "Dear Igor" letter, Mrs. Albright said that "without the aide-memoire," meaning the agreement between Mr. Gore and Mr. Chernomyrdin, Russia's arms sales to Iran "would have been subject to sanctions based on various provisions of our laws."

These documents and others are sought by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is investigating the matter. Investigators say the Gore-Chernomyrdin deal appears to violate a provision of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act, which requires the Clinton administration to keep congressional oversight committees fully informed of all issues related to nuclear weapons proliferation.

"In the last several weeks, the administration has made many excuses" for why it has not produced the documents the Foreign Relations Committee has requested, Erik Hotmire, spokesman for Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, said in an interview yesterday. Mr. Brownback is chairman of Foreign Relations' Near Eastern and South Asian affairs subcommittee.

Like Mr. Lott, Mr. Brownback was among the 10 Republican senators who sent the letter last week, demanding that the requested documents be surrendered by noon today.

Others who signed the letter are Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee; Sen. Gordon H. Smith of Oregon, chairman of Foreign Relations' European affairs subcommittee; Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, a member of the foreign relations and intelligence committees; Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles of Oklahoma; Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia, chairman of the Armed Services Committee; Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, chairman of the Government Affairs Committee; Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, chairman of the Judiciary Committee; and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a member of the Armed Services Committee and chairman of the Commerce Committee.

Mr. Hotmire said that as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee prepared for a hearing last week on the secret Russian-U.S. agreement, State Department officials requested a private meeting with committee members because of concerns about discussing classified documents in public.

Mr. Hotmire said the closed session was held immediately after the hearing. "The bottom line," he said, "was that the administration did not hand over the documents."

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