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No Sanction to Burma

The Washington Times

                     April  5, 1997, Saturday, Final Edition


LENGTH: 664 words

HEADLINE: No sanctions for  Burma,  even as rights woes worsen;
Clinton decides on policy with deadlines for change

BYLINE: Warren P.  Strobel and Tiffany Danitz; THE WASHINGTON TIMES

    President Clinton has decided not to impose economic sanctions on  Burma's
military regime for now, despite Rangoon's worsening human rights record and
failure to control drug trafficking, U.S.  officials said yesterday.

    Instead, Mr.  Clinton is embracing a middle-of-the-road policy that would
combine new steps against the regime, known as the State Law and Order
Restoration Council (SLORC), with a deadline for changing its behavior or face

U.S.  sanctions, the officials said.

    The president's decision - which officials cautioned is not yet final -
comes after a long internal administration debate between those who believe the
United States must get tough with  Burma  and those who argue that sanctions
would be futile without broader international backing.

    "I wouldn't look for them [sanctions] real soon," said an administration
official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

    "A continuation of the upward slope of pressure against the Burmese regime
is what he's called for," the official said.  "The president has given them a
two-minute warning."

    Another official said Mr.  Clinton is expected to make a final decision soon
and has been prodded into action by recent SLORC actions against Burmese monks
in the city of Mandalay and a military offensive against the Karen ethnic people
along  Burma's  borders.

    Mr.  Clinton's expected action will disappoint a bipartisan coalition of
lawmakers and pro-democracy activists, whose criticism is supported by the State
Department's most recent human rights report on the generals who seized power

in 1988 and annulled elections two years later.

    In a letter to Secretary of State Madeleine K.  Albright last month, Sen.
Mitch McConnell warned against further half-steps.

    "On four occasions, including your own visit, tough American ultimatums were
issued only to be tested by SLORC.  Our ultimatums were immediately followed by
arrests, torture and deaths of democracy supporters.  I do not want to risk more
lives with empty threats," the Kentucky Republican wrote.

    A Republican operative who specializes on  Burma  said this course would be
another example of appeasing dictators and terrorists.  "Clinton caved on Cuba
sanctions, lifted sanctions to allow oil companies to cut deals with terrorist
states and now  Burma's  democracy movement has been victimized by Clinton's
policy," the operative said.

    The United States repeatedly has warned the regime about its behavior -
which includes a crackdown on dissidents, torture, mistreatment of ethnic
minorities and reports of forced labor - but has taken only minor steps against
the regime, such as barring visas for the generals last year.

    Congress last year passed a watered-down version of legislation sponsored by
Mr.  McConnell that would give the president the discretion to ban U.S.
investment in  Burma  if the SLORC "physically harmed, rearrested for political
acts or exiled [pro-democracy leader] Aung San Suu Kyi or has committed large
scale repression or violence against the democratic opposition."

    Administration officials have argued for weeks over whether the conditions
in the legislation have been met.

    "It's on the cusp of a clear case.  But it's not a clear case that sanctions
need to be imposed at this point," the U.S.  official said.

    Aung San Suu Kyi's freedom remains constricted.  The regime continues to
monitor and harass dissidents, and in February, the Burmese military attacked
camps of the Karen, an ethnic minority strung along the Thai border.

    "After 2,000 arrests, this vicious attack on ethnic civilian communities,
Aung San Suu Kyi's virtual house arrest, threats against her life, the torture
and murder of her supporters, what precisely is the threshold for the conditions
of the bill being met and the President imposing sanctions?" Mr.  McConnell
asked in his letter. 
    Many officials acknowledge that, if SLORC is given a deadline of, say, 60
days, it is unlikely to change its behavior.


LOAD-DATE: April 5, 1997