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Thursday, October 14, 1999 Published at 07:45 GMT 08:45 UK

World: Americas

US Senate rejects test ban treaty

US said it would not resume underground testing

The United States Senate has voted down the global treaty banning nuclear tests, dealing a blow to attempts to halt the spread of nuclear weapons.

The Senate's rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was also a major foreign policy defeat for President Clinton, who had fought for a US endorsement of the accord.

The BBC's Rob Watson: "Democrats argued the treaty would prevent the spread of nuclear weapons"
He quickly went on the attack, describing the Senate Republicans who had voted against the treaty as "reckless" and "partisan".

It was the first time the Senate has rejected an arms control pact.

The CTBT has already been signed by more than 150 countries, but cannot come into force until it is ratified by all 44 countries judged to have nuclear capability.

Russia and China had been waiting for the US to ratify first. Pakistan and India - the world's newest nuclear powers - have so far refused to sign up to the deal.


The BBC's Paul Reynolds in Washington: "For now, the test ban treaty is doomed"
The Senate rejected the CTBT by a vote of 51 to 48. The final vote fell a long way short of the two-thirds majority - 67 votes - required to ratify the pact.

[ image:  ]
The vote closely followed party lines, with only four Republicans breaking ranks to endorse the treaty.

Michigan Democrat Senator Carl Levin said: "With this vote tonight, the world becomes a more dangerous place."

The showdown in the Senate followed a protracted partisan battle over a postponement of the ratification vote.

Democrat supporters of the treaty had earlier failed in the Senate to put off the vote until after the next presidential election, saying most Americans oppose a ban of this kind.

But Republicans in the Senate wanted to destroy the CTBT because they believed it would harm American interests by preventing the US from maintaining the effectiveness of its nuclear arsenal.

They also believed the ban could not be properly monitored.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, had called the test ban treaty "fatally flawed".

Blow for Clinton

Republican Senate leaders and the White House had spent three days negotiating over a postponement of the ratification vote.

[ image: President Clinton had made an impassioned plea to Republicans]
President Clinton had made an impassioned plea to Republicans
President Clinton had asked on Monday for a vote to be delayed, fearing it faced rejection because of its unpopularity.

Correspondents say the rejection of the pact marks a humiliating setback for President Clinton's political legacy.

He was the first world leader to sign the treaty in 1996 and has set nuclear non-proliferation as a major foreign policy goal.

Listen to President Clinton's statement
The president said he was "very disappointed" at the Senate's failure to ratify the global test ban.

But he went on to promise: "I assure you the fight is far from over ... When all is said and done the United States will ratify the treaty."

Despite the Senate's vote against ratification, Mr Clinton said the US would retain its moratorium against nuclear tests and abide by the terms of the test ban treaty.

He urged other countries that have also halted nuclear testing to follow suit.

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Internet Links

CTBT Text and Context

Council for a Liveable World - Test-Ban Campaign

US Department of Energy - CTBT

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