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Tuesday, October 12, 1999 Published at 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK

World: Americas

Senate deadlock on nuclear vote

Many Republicans think nuclear tests are in the national interest

The US Senate has failed for a second day running to agree to President Clinton's request that its vote on ratifying a global treaty banning nuclear tests be delayed.

The vote on the landmark Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), due to have been held on Tuesday, is now scheduled for Wednesday, when talks on its possible postponement will resume.

The BBC's Paul Reynolds in Washington: "The treaty requires a two-thirds majority, which just isn't there"
The CTBT has the support of fewer than 50 senators, far short of the two-thirds majority needed for ratification.

A delay would avoid its outright rejection - and a potential foreign policy disaster for Mr Clinton.

"We don't have an agreement at this point to do anything but go forward with the vote, but we're exploring all kinds of possibilities and that's where we stand," Republican Senate Majority leader Trent Lott said.


A key sticking point appears to be language in a Democratic offer to put off the vote until after the next president takes office in 2001- a condition Republicans have set for agreeing to the delay.

The offer is conditional on "absent unforeseen changes in the international situation".

The White House earlier made clear that such a pledge would send a "destructive message" on nuclear non-proliferation.

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Mr Lott, who had tried to extract a similar promise from Mr Clinton, was said by Senate aides to be trying to win his colleagues' acceptance for the offer.

But he said that he would go ahead with the vote if he failed. "I'm perfectly comfortable having this vote ... I think this treaty is fatally flawed."

Republicans say the treaty would prevent America from modernising its nuclear arsenal, and argue that it would be difficult to test compliance.

But President Clinton says failure to ratify would damage American prestige abroad, and hinder efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear arms.

Presidential letter

He requested the vote delay in a letter to Mr Lott and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle on Monday.

He said he still firmly believed the treaty was in the national interest, but he recognised that "there are a significant number of senators who have honest disagreements".

To take effect, the treaty, which has been signed by 154 nations, must be ratified by all 44 countries judged to have nuclear capability. So far 26 nuclear nations have ratified.

Key nations such as Russia and China have signed, but not ratified, while India and Pakistan are yet to sign.

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