WASHINGTON (May 27, 1998) -- A conditioned new commitment by the Clinton Administration to sign the Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel landmines is welcome news, according to the Chairman of the U.S. Catholic Conference International Policy Committee.
"I hope that this new commitment to sign the treaty will be made real by a concerted effort to find appropriate alternatives in the near term, and we will support legislative efforts to do so," said Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of Newark (NJ) in a May 26 letter to National Security Advisor Samuel Berger.
News of the shift in U.S. policy was made public last week following the release of a letter from Berger to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who has led legislative efforts to limit or ban U.S. reliance on landmines. The new policy, to be formalized in the next few weeks, commits the United States to sign the Ottawa Treaty by 2006 if alternatives to anti-personnel landmines are in place.
"We do not underestimate the challenge of developing such alternatives, but if alternatives exist, and many experts say they do, the United States has a moral responsibility to pursue them -- not in the distant future but now," said Archbishop McCarrick.
He reiterated the Bishops' deep disappointment at the U.S. refusal to sign the Ottawa Treaty last year, and reminded the Administration of the impact of U.S. endorsement.
"Without the United States, this noble effort to achieve an effective global ban will be seriously undermined," said Archbishop McCarrick. "We hope you will find ways to heed the call of so many Americans who want the United States to be a moral leader by signing the treaty that will ban landmines sooner rather than later."