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Clinton Urges OK of Chemical Arms Pact

Politics: In weekly radio address, president calls on Senate to ratify treaty. Dole uses response to promote tax cut plan, criticize family leave act.


WASHINGTON — President Clinton on Saturday called on the Senate to ratify a treaty that requires destruction of chemical weapons "such as those that Iraq and other rogue nations have developed."

By voting for the Chemical Weapons Convention, "the Senate can help to banish poison gas from the Earth and make America's citizens and soldiers much more secure," the president said in his weekly radio address.

Nations signing the treaty would destroy their chemical weapons and pledge to avoid developing or buying any new supplies. The pact would be enforced by an international intelligence network and by surprise inspections.

In his address, Clinton studiously avoided any reference to the presidential campaign, choosing instead to stand above the political fray and use the advantage of incumbency to present himself as national leader and commander in chief.


GOP challenger Bob Dole, on the other hand, used his Saturday broadcast to hammer away at his main campaign theme: the need for major tax cuts to stimulate the economy and provide families with more economic security.

He carried on with that message at a campaign stop in Pittsburgh, where he also sharply criticized the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows workers to take unpaid leave to care for a new child or a sick family member.

"The federal government ought to be out of it," Dole said. "I believe in compassionate leave if there is a birth or death or something that happens. But I cannot help but worry about the long arm of the federal government."

Clinton campaign spokesman Joe Lockhart responded quickly, saying Dole was "resisting an idea that's helped 12 million Americans deal with family problems and keep their jobs."

Lockhart also said that Dole "wonders why he has a 30-point gender gap. Here's the reason."


Visiting a manufacturer of tennis equipment as part of his "listening to America" sessions with owners of small businesses, Dole said Americans should be self-reliant instead of looking to the government.

In his radio address, the GOP candidate said his proposal for a 15% cut in income tax rates and a $500 tax credit for each child younger than 18 will give the average family a tax savings of $1,600 a year.

A typical family, "thanks to the 1993 Clinton tax increase, now pays more in taxes than they do for food, shelter and clothing combined," Dole said. "These high taxes have helped to create an economy of slow growth, stagnant wages and falling incomes."

Clinton used part of his address to thank the armed forces for their successful missile strikes in response to Iraq's incursion into U.S.-protected Kurdish regions and to say he will sign the $256-billion defense authorization bill now before Congress. The bill includes funds for technology and a 3% raise for military personnel.

Clinton said that the effort to ban lethal chemical weapons "has taken on new urgency now that terrorists can also turn to chemical weapons, whose terrible impact we saw in the sarin gas attack last year in the Tokyo subway."

Legislation to ratify the treaty would "give us the most powerful tools available to investigate the development, production, transfer or acquisition of chemical weapons, as well as their actual use," the president said. "Today, for example, there is no federal law on the books prohibiting someone from actually cooking up poison gas."

The treaty was originally signed in 1993, but it has not yet taken effect because it needs ratification by 65 nations. Sixty have approved, but the major producers of chemical weapons--the United States and Russia--have not yet ratified it.

The Senate is scheduled to vote on the treaty this month. However, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said Friday that the administration had not given the legislators "critical information" on the issues involved.

In other developments, both vice presidential candidates were stumping Saturday in Georgia.

Touring a vocational school in Macon, Vice President Al Gore told students and teachers: "In the future, what you earn will depend on what you learn."

"We want an America where every child can go to college," Gore said as he promoted Clinton's call for a $1,500 tax credit for two years of skill training after high school.

Speaking in Atlanta, Republican Jack Kemp charged that the Clinton administration has "absolutely dropped the ball with regard to stopping drugs in this country." He told an airport rally that a Dole administration would halt the flow of illegal drugs into the U.S.

Times staff writers Gebe Martinez and Jonathan Peterson contributed to this story.

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