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Threat to Stall Nuclear Treaty Called Political

February 09, 1988|RUDY ABRAMSON | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — A Republican senator long involved in the debate over the interpretation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty accused Senate Democrats on Monday of seeking "purely political concessions" in threatening to delay ratification of the new U.S.-Soviet treaty on intermediate nuclear forces.

In a letter to Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) called for the Reagan Administration to reject what he called an "attempt by the Senate majority leader and the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman to hold the INF treaty hostage."

Late last week, with the new INF agreement apparently sailing toward quick ratification, Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W. Va.) and Armed Services Chairman Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) warned Shultz that there would be a delay in the hearings unless the Administration gave assurances that it would be bound by the testimony of executive branch witnesses.

The threat, which surfaced in an exchange of letters Friday, was a continuation of a 2-year-old battle over the ABM treaty between Nunn and the Administration. With the advent of President Reagan's "Star Wars" missile defense initiative, the Administration has asserted that testing was permitted under that pact because a review showed it was subject to a broader interpretation than then had been given to Congress.

The Administration has stuck doggedly by its position that testimony in ratification hearings does not necessarily reflect the only interpretation of an agreement.

Record to be Provided

After two months of negotiations with Nunn, Shultz agreed to provide the Senate with the negotiating record of the seven years of talks leading to the new INF treaty, which would ban all ground-launched nuclear missiles with a range of 300 to 3,000 miles.

But in a letter Friday night, Nunn and Byrd said they were not satisfied and pressed for assurances that Administration testimony on the agreement's terms would be regarded as "authoritative."

Specter, one of the more active members of the Republican INF caucus, told Shultz in his letter Monday that he considers the broad versus narrow interpretation of the ABM treaty still susceptible to debate. But he said it is "unreasonable" to "unilaterally bind the United States to the narrow interpretation in response to a domestic political power play."

Earlier this month, Specter argued in an article for the New York Review of Books that the Administration should not turn the treaty's negotiating record over to the Senate because the thousands of pages would provide an opportunity for endless debates over documents.

It remains unclear how much Nunn's dispute with the Administration might in fact delay the ratification of the treaty when hearings resume next week.

No Violation of Treaty

In a related development, Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci said that modernization of tactical, or battlefield, missiles--those with a range of under 300 miles--would not be a violation of the INF treaty.

"Some of the modernization of nuclear artillery is already going ahead," Carlucci said upon his return from a conference on allied military matters in Munich, West Germany. " . . . The modernization program in no way circumvents the treaty."

Speaking on NBC's "Today" show, Carlucci said the modernization effort has the support of West Germany despite published reports to the contrary.

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