- The Washington Times - Friday, August 16, 2002

President Bush is expected to designate Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to represent the administration at an upcoming summit on poverty and the environment in South Africa.

World leaders have gathered four times in four decades to discuss and implement treaties on the environment, population and other global growth issues.

News of the impending decision by Mr. Bush not to attend the summit, scheduled to be held Aug. 24 through Sept. 4 in Johannesburg and officially known as the World Summit for Sustainable Development, drew praise from conservative activists and criticism from House Democrats.

"America has enough critics around the world without putting the president on the firing line," said Fred L. Smith Jr., president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

"We should not be putting ourselves in a position to have socialist and corrupt governments [talking] about America, the sinful nation of the world."

Democrats say the administration should play a stronger role in negotiating environmental commitments at the international gathering.

"We are deeply concerned by reports that you do not plan to attend the Summit and urge you to reconsider," said a letter to Mr. Bush signed by more than 40 House members.

"Avoiding a global summit that other world leaders consider critical in addressing the link between environmental stewardship and poverty alleviation may hamper our ability to achieve broader international policy goals that are in our national interest," said the letter, led by Rep. Earl Blumenaur, Oregon Democrat.

Nearly 30 conservative groups urged Mr. Bush to decline the invitation in an Aug. 2 letter, including Mr. Smith, Paul Weyrich of Coalitions for America, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, David Keene of the American Conservative Union and Steven Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute.

"Although so-called environmental groups may in the next few weeks pressure you to attend, we believe there are good reasons not to give in to this pressure," the letter said.

"Even more than the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, the Johannesburg Summit will provide a global media stage for many of the most irresponsible and destructive elements involved in critical international economic and environmental issues," it said.

"Your presence would only help to publicize and make more credible their various anti-freedom, anti-people, anti-globalization, and anti-Western agendas."

Conservatives also had urged the first President Bush not to attend the 1992 summit in Rio de Janeiro.

The senior Mr. Bush was "misadvised" to attend, Mr. Smith said. "Why would you go to a party when they want to throw pies at you?" Mr. Smith told the Associated Press. "The fortunate thing is when 40,000 goofies get together, not much happens."

Conservatives also support Mr. Bush's opposition to signing any new international environmental treaties.

"In our view, the worst possible outcome at Johannesburg would be taking any steps towards creating a World Environmental Organization, as the European Union has suggested," the letter to Mr. Bush said.

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