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The East: White House Opposes U.S. Senate's Foreign Aid Cuts

Washington, 5 July 1999 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President Bill Clinton says legislation approved by the U.S. Senate to provide $12.7 billion in foreign aid is grossly inadequate and - if enacted into law - would undermine American leadership around the world.

The fiscal year 2000 bill, which passed 97 to 2 in the upper chamber of Congress last Wednesday night, has not yet been acted upon by the U.S. House of Representatives. Clinton said he would veto the measure unless the final legislation is significantly improved.

After the House enacts its own version of the bill, the measure will likely go to a joint Senate-House panel to reconcile the differences. Clinton would then decide to approve it or veto it.

The Senate bill eliminates $1.9 billion from Clinton's request for foreign operations. It would slash funds for counter terrorism, peacekeeping operations, carrying out Middle East peace accords, and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, a leading expert on foreign appropriations, said the bill "goes beyond penny-wise and pound-foolish. It goes into irresponsibility."

One provision of the Senate bill includes $20 million for training and equipping a Kosovo security force that critics say could include members of the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army.

The White House is opposed to that proposal, noting that NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosovo are trying to disarm the ethnic Albanian rebels. It said the bill's provision to fund a security force could be interpreted as aimed at training and equipping these fighters.

The measure would also eliminate $350 million Clinton has sought to help put into effect the peace agreement Israel and the Palestinians signed last year.

The legislation includes $150 million in aid to Kosovo, $85 million for Albania, $60 million for Romania, $55 million for Macedonia, $45 million for Bulgaria and $35 million for Montenegro, a pro-Western republic of Yugoslavia. It would declare Serbia a terrorist state and would bar aid to the republic.

The measure would provide $175 million for anti-terrorism programs, a cut of more than $30 million from that requested by Clinton.

In addition, it would provide $610 million for the Red Cross and the United Nations to help refugees, with $60 million for those settling in Israel. It also lists $10 million for Iraqi opposition groups.

The bill includes language threatening to reduce aid to Russia unless its forces in Kosovo are completely integrated under NATO command.

Clinton has requested $295 million in aid for Russia.

The measure would also cut by 50 percent certain funds for Russia until Clinton determines that Moscow has terminated all nuclear-related aid to Iran.

Senators pushed through several other amendments to the appropriations bill.

One would withhold certain unspecified funds for assistance for Ukraine until the Kyiv government has undertaken significant economic reforms, including taking effective measures to end alleged corruption by government officials.

The Clinton administration has proposed $219 million in aid for Ukraine.

Another amendment would make available $3.5 million for the destruction of stockpiles of anti-personnel land mines in Ukraine. The Senate bill does not contain language proposing to change current U.S. policy toward the Caucasus. U.S. policy currently restricts assistance to the government of Azerbaijan because of its policy toward mainly ethnic-Armenian populated Nagorno-Karabakh.

Senator Paul Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat, said that Azeri blockades of the enclave have caused "immense human suffering."