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U.S. recalls ambassador to India

Sanctions likely after nuclear tests

May 12, 1998
Web posted at: 9:45 p.m. EDT (0145 GMT)
Clinton
Clinton is "deeply disturbed by the nuclear tests" in India
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In this story:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States has recalled its ambassador to India for consultations following India's announcement Monday that it conducted nuclear tests.

Ambassador Richard Celeste was on his way to India from the United States when U.S. officials learned of the tests. He was then ordered to turn around and head back to Washington.

President Clinton said Tuesday he was "deeply disturbed" by the three underground nuclear blasts. He urged India to sign a test ban treaty and conduct no more tests. Clinton also said he would enforce a U.S. law calling for sanctions.

He said U.S. laws have "very stringent provisions" regarding nuclear tests by non-nuclear weapons states "and I intend to implement them fully."

He did not elaborate, but the White House said the president would likely impose restrictions on economic and military aid to India.

Clinton's fall trip to India under review

State Department spokesman James Rubin said Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is recommending the sanctions be applied immediately.

Rubin said Albright found it "appalling" and "deplorable" that Indian officials in contact with U.S. officials did not reveal India's intentions prior to the testing.

India's foreign minister was in Washington last Friday for meetings with top-ranking State Department officials but did not disclose the plans.

Rubin said the status of Clinton's planned trip to India in the fall is under review.

White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said the United States has communicated to the Indian government through diplomatic channels its strong objections to the tests.

He said the United States is examining what actions to take. McCurry said that under a law governing relations with nations that conduct nuclear tests, "the imposition of sanctions is dealt with almost as a certainty."

Clinton urges Pakistan to show restraint

Clinton, appearing at a White House ceremony, said, "I am deeply disturbed by the nuclear tests which India has conducted and I do not believe it contributes to a safer 21st century."

"This action by India not only threatens the stability of the region, it directly challenges the firm, international consensus to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," the president said.

India, Pakistan and Israel are the three nations widely suspected of nuclear capability that have not joined the 1970 nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which is now observed by 185 countries.

Pakistan, which has fought three wars with its neighbor in the past 50 years, says it will match any security threats posed by India's nuclear tests. Clinton called for Pakistan to show restraint.

"I also urge India's neighbors not to follow suit, not to follow down the path of a dangerous arms race," he said.

1994 law calls for sanctions

Under a 1994 U.S. law that Clinton said he would enforce, countries that detonate nuclear devices:

  • Are subject to denial of U.S. credits and credit guarantees.

  • Face U.S. opposition if they request loans from international lending institutions.

  • Are barred from loans from any U.S. bank, except borrowing that provides food or other agricultural commodities.

Sanctions also could include restrictions on U.S. military aid to India, but currently there is no joint military training between the two countries.

The Pentagon says its very limited military contact with India "would cease" if sanctions are imposed.

Clinton did not announce what specific steps his administration planned to take, but U.S. officials said privately that the president's senior advisers have recommended that he hit India with "the full range of sanctions" contained in the law, called the Glenn-Symington amendment.

An administration official said government experts want a careful evaluation of what happened before making a determination on sanctions.

Overall, officials admit that any sanctions will be a "minor irritant" to India, but enough to prevent its goal of creating a "take-off" economy.

The law says that if the president fails to act, the sanctions automatically go into effect after 30 days unless Congress decides otherwise.

Any U.S. move will be carefully considered by other countries. India's biggest donor is Japan, and the government in Tokyo announced it is currently weighing similar sanctions.

White House Correspondent Eileen O'Connor contributed to this report.

 
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