- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Some form of the 1994 deal to constrain North Korea's nuclear-missile program must be preserved, despite Pyongyang's admission last month that it has violated the accord, incoming Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar said yesterday.

"I know there are some who think this agreement was bad from beginning to end, but for the moment we need a construct that stops the production of more weapons by North Korea," said Mr. Lugar, the five-term Indiana Republican who will take over the committee when his party assumes control of the Senate in January.

The low-key Mr. Lugar, a confirmed multilateralist in foreign policy who has clashed with hard-liners in his own party, said he did not criticize the Bush administration's decision last week to suspend fuel oil shipments to North Korea under the 1994 Agreed Framework deal. The oil is intended to compensate the North for supposedly abandoning its quest for nuclear weapons and allowing international monitors of its nuclear programs.

"That was a judgment call, and I respect their judgment," said Mr. Lugar.

But he insisted the only long-term solution to the crisis involved "creative diplomatic solutions" that preserve a role for international inspectors in the North and hold out the prospect of better ties if the country mends its ways.

Mr. Lugar's tone differs markedly from some in the Bush administration, but Mr. Lugar plays down predictions that he may be heading for conflict with the Republican president or the more conservative incoming Republican Senate leadership.

"Those looking for fights are misunderstanding the situation," said Mr. Lugar. "I strongly support President Bush and [Secretary of State] Colin Powell and have a good working relationship with them. Our work won't be about finding fault or looking for fights."

But he also said he planned a bipartisan approach to his committee, on which Republicans will hold only a slight majority in the new Congress.

When he briefly served as Foreign Relations Committee chairman in 1985 and 1986, "I worked hard to get 15 or 16 votes" on issues in the 17-senator panel, Mr. Lugar recalled. "I know it's not easy. It takes a lot of patience, a lot of accommodation of other points of view."

An admitted foreign policy wonk and a firm supporter of the United Nations, Mr. Lugar has shown a willingness to take on his own party's president on high-profile issues.

In 1986, he helped override President Reagan's veto of a bill imposing new sanctions on the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Earlier this year, Mr. Lugar annoyed many in the White House by co-sponsoring a resolution authorizing military action against Iraq with then-committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, that was markedly less expansive than the text submitted by President Bush.

Mr. Lugar criticized the administration for failing to build support domestically and internationally for military action against Iraq. He said in the interview that not enough attention has been paid to the postwar scenarios for Iraq, including relations with other Middle East countries and the shape of a new Iraqi regime once Saddam Hussein is eliminated.

But Mr. Lugar in the end supported a modified Iraqi war resolution, after an early September meeting where Mr. Bush pledged to seek U.N. backing for the U.S. hard line.

Mr. Lugar is best known abroad for the 1991 program he co-sponsored with former Sen. Sam Nunn, Georgia Democrat, to finance the securing and eventual destruction of the old Soviet Union's vast nuclear, chemical and biological weapons stocks.

He said one of the early priorities for his committee will be extending the Nunn-Lugar model to Iraq, in anticipation of the campaign to disarm Saddam's illicit arsenals.

The future of Iraq and Afghanistan will be two early topics for committee hearings, the Indiana senator said yesterday.

"It is vitally important that Afghanistan succeed" in the long term, he said, "and there's a concern out there that we are not committed to this."

As he did in the mid-1980s as chairman, Mr. Lugar said he plans a barrage of hearings early in his tenure on a broad range of foreign policy subjects, including economic and political instability in South America, AIDS and poverty in Africa, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The hearings in part will be designed to educate a slew of new members from both parties on a committee where some of the most distinctive voices will be missing.

Sen. Paul Wellstone, the Minnesota Democratic liberal who was killed in a plane crash last month, and retiring Sen. Jesse Helms, the North Carolina Republican who is one of the Senate's most well-known conservative voices, had been on the panel.

Mr. Helms, who chaired the committee from 1995 to 2001, made himself a foreign policy power by confronting both Democratic and Republican administrations, clashing repeatedly with the State Department and blocking ambassadorial nominations to get his points across.

Mr. Lugar said that won't be his style.

"Presidents ought to be able to nominate the people they want to serve them, and those people should get a hearing and a vote," he said. "When I was chairman, almost everyone who was nominated got a vote, no matter what I personally felt."

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