Helms takes the US diplomatic service hostage

Jesse Helms, the eccentric right-wing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has hit on a novel method of persuasion to impose his will on the Clinton administration: hostage-taking.

President Bill Clinton has refused to contemplate a proposal by the North Carolina Republican to eradicate the three agencies dedicated to arms control, foreign aid and dissemination of information. Mr Helms says if the agencies were absorbed by the State Department, $3bn (pounds 1.9bn) would be saved over the next four years.

Since Mr Clinton will not budge, Mr Helms has blocked 400 pending State Department promotions and the appointments of 30 ambassadorial nominees. Nearly one-sixth of US embassies - including Pakistan, Panama and Lebanon - area without ambassadors.

Mr Helms has in effect closed the Foreign Relations Committee, also suspendingbusiness related to ratification of international treaties and agreements.

International commitmentson arms control, the environment and investment have been put on hold because Mr Helms refuses to give the necessary legislative stamp of approval.

"These people are playing hard-ball and dirty pool at the same time and I'm not going to cave in," he told the New York Times. Warren Christopher, the Secretary of State, said Mr Helms was creating management and morale problems in the foreign service. "Our problems ... are quite difficult enough as it is without the extra burden of not having our personnel in place."

The 30 people whose ambassadorial appointments Mr Helms has refused to approve are said to be strolling around the State Department, looking for things to do. Legally they must not make any contact with officials of the countries they expect to work in until the Senate ratifies their transfers. One man, a would-be envoy to the United Arab Emirates, has sold his house and is now having to pay domestic bills out of his own pocket.

Mr Helms is unrepentant. "Nothing is going to pot because an ambassador's not there," he told the New York Times. "I've seen them come and I've seen them go and the best thing about almost all of them is when they go."

If there is one thing Mr Helms despises even more than ambassadors it is foreign aid, most of which, he says, goes "down a rathole". On Thursday he scored a triumph when the Senate voted to reduce the annual foreign- aid budget from $14.7bn to $12.3bn. Development agencies will lose, but the US contribution to Israel remains unchanged at $3.1bn.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower