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Congress Offered Russian Documents

Updated:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department offered Monday to show several lawmakers some documents relating to a 1995 U.S.-Russia weapons agreement that critics contend violated nonproliferation rules and was kept secret. Lawmakers rejected the idea.

``It's totally inadequate,'' said John Czwartacki, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright sent a letter Monday offering to show only some of the documents and to show them only to Senate leaders, Czwartacki said while declining to release the letter.

``We have offered to provide the leadership of the Senate with access to the key documents at their convenience, and we'll see how that materializes,'' State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.

The chairmen of both House and Senate foreign affairs committees in Congress, joined by other Republicans, told the Clinton administration Friday to turn over by noon Monday all documents related to the agreement that let Russia continue selling arms to Iran and exempted it from sanctions for the sales.

Administration officials have said the 1995 agreements between Vice President Al Gore and Russia's then-prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin were announced at the time and have been successful at limiting weapons Iran has been able to buy.

Democratic lawmakers and campaign officials contend the deal is only being brought up now to embarrass Gore just before the presidential election.

Boucher said that because the issue involved ``sensitive diplomatic negotiations,'' the department wants to be ``exceedingly careful'' about releasing information. Publicizing some documents could jeopardize U.S. efforts to curtail nuclear proliferation.

``We have an obligation to sustain a policy that has improved the national security of the United States over the last six years by limiting the number and quality of weapons that are gone to Iran.'' Boucher said. ``We are trying to meet the congressional requests in a manner that doesn't simultaneously destroy our policy, which would not be in our national interest.''

At issue is an agreement under which Russia pledged not to enter into any new contracts to sell Iran conventional weapons but was allowed to continue with delivery on existing contracts until 1999.

In return, the United States agreed not to sanction Russia under a 1992 nonproliferation law co-sponsored by Gore and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that bans weapons sales to Iran and other states that are viewed as sponsors of terrorism.

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On the Net:

House Committee on International Relations: http://www.house.gov/international—relations/
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