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Source: Chemical Market Reporter, June 22, 1998 v253 n25 p20(1).

Title: Congress Moving Closer To Implementing CWC Treaty.

Full Text COPYRIGHT 1998 Schnell Publishing Company Inc.

LEGISLATION ESTABLISHING the regulatory framework for complying with the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) has been cleared by Congress and is poised to become law--with or without the approval of President Clinton.

Although the Administration supports the bill to implement US compliance with the international treaty banning the production and use of chemical weapons, the White House has threatened a presidential veto because it opposes unrelated provisions concerning economic sanctions.

The underlying legislation would require the US to impose sanctions on Russian and other companies suspected of providing sensitive missile technology to Iran. Republican leaders added the CWC implementation language as a separate title in an attempt to induce President Clinton to sign the Iran sanctions measure.

The administration says it is "taking steps to halt the transfer of missile technology to rogue nations" and that existing law "provides an adequate basis for the US to impose sanctions on foreign entities that further Iranian ballistic missile capabilities."

Both the House and the Senate passed the Iran Missile Proliferation Act by far more than the two-thirds majority necessary to override a veto. The bill reached the President's desk on June 11, which means he must act on the measure by June 23.

"There isn't going to be an override fight," says a Democratic congressional aide who predicts President Clinton will sign the bill, despite the sanctions measure, to avoid an overwhelming defeat.

The CWC was ratified by the Senate in April 1997. The treaty bans the manufacture of chemical and biological weapons and requires the destruction of existing chemical weapons stockpiles.

It also imposes annual record keeping and reporting obligations on about 1,800 US chemical makers and allows international inspections of plants that make substances that could be diverted to weapons manufacture.

The implementation bill authorizes the Commerce Department to issue draft regulations imposing these requirements. However, the measure also includes two controversial provisions.

In May 1997, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) inserted language in the original version of the legislation to address national security concerns raised by some conservatives. The White House accepted the changes to ensure Senate passage.

One provision would give the President discretionary authority to block a surprise "challenge" inspection if he determines it would pose a threat to US security interests.

The other stipulation, which is intended to protect the confidential business information of US firms, provides that no chemical sample taken by international inspectors may be sent abroad for analysis.

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) says these provisions violate the treaty and should be changed to ensure full US compliance. "We can be sure that China, Iran and other countries will seize upon the precedent we set and use it to undermine the effectiveness of the verification scheme," he says.

And while the sampling safeguard may offer further protection to US manufacturers against possible industrial espionage, Sen. Biden maintains it also "opens a huge loophole for countries that may violate this convention."

The US chemical industry continues to support the treaty and views the implementation bill as "a reasonable approach to meet US obligations under the CWC and protect industry's interests," Chemical Manufacturers Association president Fred Webber told Sen. Helms in a letter last month.

 
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