WASHINGTON -- Despite concerns about the nuclear arms programs launched by Iraq and other countries, the Bush administration is quietly seeking to head off efforts in Congress to clamp down on U.S. exports of products or technology that can be used in manufacturing such weapons.
In a letter to Congress last week, the administration declared that it opposed legislation that would strengthen the existing system of U.S. export controls for nuclear-related technology. The measure is now nearing a vote in the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Such legislation would amount to congressional "micromanagement" of foreign affairs and trade, and might even go so far as to hamper U.S. cooperation with nuclear-safety programs in the Soviet Union, the administration said in its letter.
It was the latest in a series of efforts by the administration over the past two years to prevent Congress from enacting measures that would tighten the legal controls governing U.S. exports. Last year, President Bush vetoed a bill that would have required him to impose trade sanctions on countries that use chemical and biological weapons and on companies that sell them.
This year, the administration has said that it supports the general concept of new congressional legislation on export controls. But in its letter to Congress last week, the administration went on record in opposition to a series of specific provisions contained in the proposed legislation.
Moreover, the administration sought in its letter to preserve the right to expand U.S. trade with Syria and Iran. A congressional provision imposing an embargo on U.S. exports to Syria and Iran VTC would "send a very negative signal to countries actively entering the [Mideast] peace process. . . ," the administration said.