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|Thursday, October 26, 2000, updated at 09:02(GMT+8)|
U.S. Official Defends Gore's Pact With Russia Over Arms Sales to IranThe U.S. State Department, refuting Republican charges against Vice President Al Gore over a pact with Russia on arms sales to Iran, said on Wednesday that the deal was consistent with law and did not keep Congress in the dark over the agreement.
"The 1995 understanding was fully consistent with U.S. law," John P. Barker, a deputy assistant secretary of state, told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the pact negotiated by Gore, now the Democratic presidential candidate, and former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.
The U.S.-Russian pact was reached between Gore and Chernomyrdin in 1995 when Russia pledged not to sign any new contracts for Iran to buy more conventional weapons and also pledged to end existing contracts with Iran by the end of 1999. In return, the United States agreed not to impose sanctions against Russia under a new nonproliferation law co-sponsored by Gore and Republican Senator John McCain, which bars any such deal with Iran.
Barker said in his testimony that there was no attempt to keep the pact from Congress, adding that the subject was addressed in press conferences at the time of a 1995 Moscow-Washington summit and in later briefing to the staff of the House International Relations Committee.
On Tuesday, 11 former top-level national security officials said in a statement that they were "deeply disturbed" by the pact, which they said allowed the sale of "highly threatening military equipment" to Iran.
Among those signing the statement were former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Baker, as well as former secretaries of defense James Schlesinger and Donald Rumsfeld.
But Barker said the arms transfers from Russia to Iran allowed under the pact did not provide Iran new weapons capabilities or alter the regional military balance, nor it was against the sanctions law because the arms being transferred did not meet its definition of "advanced conventional weapons."
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