Originally created 05/17/98

Industrial countries address India, Ireland, crime at summit



BIRMINGHAM, England -- Rebuked by Pakistan for a "very weak response" to India's nuclear tests, world leaders turned to other global problems Saturday and urged support for Northern Ireland's peace agreement. They also pledged to intensify a crackdown on high-tech crime.

Worries about a nuclear arms race in Asia hung heavily over the summit of President Clinton and the leaders of Russia, Britain, France, Italy, Japan and Canada. The United States hinted it could ease longstanding sanctions against Pakistan if it refrained from following neighboring India with its own atomic explosions.

Seeking a relaxed atmosphere, the presidents and prime ministers retreated to the seclusion of an aristocrat's 14,000-acre country estate outside Birmingham. A trio of ducks wandered into the photo opportunity as the leaders strolled the grounds, once the ancestral home of the Earls of Bradford.

In downtown Birmingham, 50,000 demonstrators ringed the city center and the leaders' empty conference center to demand that the richest nations cancel debts owed by poor countries. Protest organizers complained they had been told only at the last moment that the leaders would be elsewhere.

Six days before a crucial vote, the leaders urged Catholics and Protestants to approve a plan for sharing power in a Northern Ireland Assembly. Instigated by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the statement said the agreement was "an opportunity for economic development and prosperity." The leaders said they hoped the peace plan would win "the widest possible support."

Returning to problems from summits past, the leaders agreed to coordinate efforts to track financial and high-tech crimes such as money laundering and illicit drugs across national borders. "There must be no safe havens either for criminals or for their money," the leaders said.

They took a stand against decriminalizing illicit drugs. "None of our countries can take the risk of removing prohibitions against drugs," French President Jacques Chirac said. "In the interest of our youth, we must reaffirm them. Drug consumers nearly always start with soft drugs."

At the summit's conclusion Sunday, Clinton will meet one-on-one with Russia's Boris Yeltsin. The White House left open the possibility they might set a date for a formal summit, even though Clinton has suggested that would have to wait until Russia ratifies the START II nuclear arms reduction treaty.

The Group of Eight was sharply criticized by Pakistan for its statement condemning India's five nuclear tests. At a news conference in Islamabad, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad said the summit had produced a "very weak response."

The leaders on Friday expressed "grave concern" for an arms race and said their relationships with India had been affected.

Clinton hesitated when asked if the summit's action would persuade Pakistan to show restraint. "I don't know, but I hope so," he replied. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott was due here late Saturday to report to Clinton after visiting Pakistan in a failed effort to win assurances it would not conduct explosions.

Sandy Berger, Clinton's national security adviser, said the summit statement had been strong, denouncing India's tests "unequivocally, without any hesitation." He said that if Pakistan refrained from testing, "the nature of their relationship with many governments will change."

Berger said that in the United States, there would be "a far greater chance of making inroads" in Congress to roll back the so-called Pressler amendment, under which the Bush administration imposed sanctions against Pakistan that halted the sale of F-16 fighters.

Canada's prime minister, Jean Chretien, pressed unsuccessfully Friday night for coordinated sanctions. "The most contentious issue was India," a senior Canadian official said. Canada acted unilaterally to cut all non-humanitarian aid to India, joining only the United States and Japan in punishing New Delhi.

Russia, France, Britain, Italy and Germany were reluctant -- or downright opposed -- to sanctions.

Clinton, in his weekly radio address broadcast, said India "is on the wrong side of history."

"I hope India will reverse course from the dangerous path it has chosen by signing the CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty) immediately and without conditions," said Clinton.

He called on the Senate to ratify the treaty quickly "so that we can increase the pressure on, and isolation of, other nations that may be considering their own nuclear test explosions."

Berger said the leaders agreed to put Africa "more centrally on the radar screen" of the summit, encouraging assistance for all African children to receive primary education and to decrease child and maternal death rates.

Britain pushed for acceptance of a plan that would have granted more generous debt relief to poor nations than rich countries have so far been willing to provide. But this was blocked by German objections.

Germany noted that it had already done quite a bit with $1.44 billion in debt forgiveness between 1993 and 1996, second only to France, which forgave $3.88 billion in poor world debt during that period.