Helms does deal to lift freeze on embassy posts

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The Independent Online
Jesse Helms, the cantankerous North Carolina Republican who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has struck a deal with the White House to end the virtual freeze he imposed on State Department business on Capitol Hill, which left 15 per cent of US embassies without ambassadors.

Under the compromise, Senate Democrats and Republicans have agreed to produce legislation to reorganise the US foreign-policy bureaucracy. This would replace Mr Helms's measure, merging the agencies responsible for foreign aid, information and disarmament, and placing them under the control of the State Department. That, says Mr Helms, would save $3bn (pounds 1.9bn) a year.

The administration ignored the proposal. Mr Helms retaliated by in effect shutting down his committee. More than 30 ambassadorial nominees were left dangling in mid-air, including former Senator Jim Sasser of Tennessee, appointed to Peking. About 400 internal promotions have been held up. Major arms treaties, including Salt II, have gone unratified.

The breakthrough is not the end of the problem for Warren Christopher, the Secretary of State, as he tries to stave off a near 25-per-cent cut in the State Department budget next year.

The cuts, saving only $800m, would nonetheless cost scores of jobs at home, as well as 50 diplomatic posts abroad.