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U.S.: Congress Passes Foreign Aid Bill

Washington, 21 December 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. Senate has given final congressional approval to legislation under which the American government would spend $15.4 billion in aid to foreign countries during the 2002 fiscal year.

The Senate voted yesterday (20 December) to approve the measure. The House passed the bill a day earlier. President George W. Bush is expected to sign it into law, even though it appropriates $200 million more than he had requested.

The foreign aid bill provides $784 million for the former Soviet republics -- $26 million less than during the 2001 fiscal year, which ended on 30 September. This amount is also $24 million less than Bush had requested.

The amounts for former Soviet Republics and Eastern Europe were not specified in the bill. But it says that 60 percent of the money that eventually will be set aside for Russia would be withheld until the government of President Vladimir Putin stops state-owned companies from helping Iran develop nuclear technology and long-range missiles. However, Bush could order all the money released if he determined that it would be in the national interest.

According to the bill, money spent in the Caucasus would be for confidence-building and other measures promoting peace, particularly in Nagorno-Karabakh and Abkhazia.

The measure also extends for a second year a partial waiver of military and economic sanctions on Azerbaijan under Section 907 of the 1992 Freedom Support Act. That measure cites Azerbaijan's efforts to blockade Armenia in the two nations' conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The legislation would provide $621 million during 2002 for Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the Baltic states. But, as with other regions, no country-by-country breakdown is given. This total amount for the region is $55 million less than was appropriated for the 2001 fiscal year.

Fifty percent of the as-yet-unspecified amount to be given to Bosnia will be withheld until the government in Sarajevo demonstrates to Congress that it is in compliance with the Dayton peace accords, which forbid the presence of foreign troops in the country and intelligence cooperation with Iran.

The foreign aid bill for 2002 would provide $314 million for programs relating to weapons nonproliferation, antiterrorism, and the removal of mines. The amount is about the same as provided for fiscal year 2001, but is about $19 million less than Bush had requested.