From: Steve Hurst/CNN State Department correspondent
Subject: Senators concerned White House might lift nuclear technology ban on China
The chairmen of two powerful Senate committees wrote to President Bill Clinton Monday expressing concern that the White House is preparing to lift a ban on sale of nuclear power technology to China.
"We believe that implementation of this agreement, now or in the immediate future, would be premature at a time when China continues its destabilizing transfers of nuclear, missile, chemical and biological weapons technology, and advanced conventional weapons," said the letter signed by Sen. Jesse Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Richard Shelby, head of the Select Committee on Intelligence.
The White House is believed to be ready to lift the 12-year ban on sales of nuclear power plants to China on Wednesday, making it the centerpiece of Clinton's one-day Washington summit with Chinese President Jiang Zemin.
After months of talks, China is said to have assured the administration it has stopped cooperating with Iran on nuclear technology and Pakistan on materials that might aid in producing nuclear weapons.
A 1985 agreement that would have allowed U.S. companies to sell nuclear power plant technology to China was blocked on Capitol Hill by the requirement that the president "certify" that China was not assisting non-nuclear weapons countries in getting the wherewithal to develop a nuclear program.
Helms and Shelby asked the Clinton Administration to provide their committees with documentation of any promises China has made and evidence of actions supporting those pledges that would allow the White House to certify Chinese compliance.
The Senate would need a two-thirds vote to block Clinton certification.
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