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US House of Representatives Passes Foreign Spending Bill - 2002-09-25

The House of Representatives has approved a bill authorizing about $14 billion in spending to help key U.S. allies fight the war on terror, and allow the State Department to pursue a range of other foreign policy objectives.

The bill formally authorizes 2003 spending for the State Department for a range of foreign policy objectives, from enhancing security at U.S. embassies, to assisting key allies in the war against terrorism.

Among what are called "urgent priorities," it approves about $500 million for security upgrades to protect U.S. diplomatic posts and personnel around the world.

About $5 billion is authorized for counter-terrorism and other military assistance to Israel and Egypt. Funds are also provided for military education and training for Greece and Turkey, and 14 other countries in Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and East Asia (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Georgia, Malta, Jordan, the Philippines).

On the Middle East, the bill requires President Bush to determine whether the Palestinian Authority is complying with commitments to renounce terrorism and violence, and report to Congress. It reaffirms U.S. law recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The bill enacts what is called the Tibet Policy Act. Introduced in the House and Senate in 2001, it called on the administration to encourage negotiations between Beijing and the Dalai Lama, and establish the State Department's coordinator for Tibetan issues.

"This legislation is the first piece of comprehensive Tibet legislation ever enacted in the Congress of the United States," said California democrat, Tom Lantos, who was a key sponsor. "... it will send a strong signal to the Chinese government that the United States has not forgotten the plight of the Tibetan people."

The bill authorizes the sale to Taiwan of four Kidd-class guided missile destroyers as requested by the administration. And it directs the president to report to Congress on efforts to end human rights violations in Vietnam.

In authorizing about $8 billion in spending for State Department and related programs, the bill requires U.S. officials to work for reform in the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

One program authorized under the bill is a new debt-for-non-proliferation program. This authorizes the president to forgive part of Russia's outstanding debt in exchange for steps by Moscow to strengthen non-proliferation and secure stocks of nuclear materials.

Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California, who was a co-sponsor, said, "Using Russia's debt to the United States as a funding mechanism for programs addressing the inadequate security of the Russian weapons stockpile is an innovative approach we must explore."

The House authorization bill also includes spending for U.S. international broadcasting, the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and Radio Free Asia. This includes funding for new broadcast programming to the Middle East.

Twenty-six million dollars is allocated for Radio/TV Marti for Cuba. Some lawmakers wanted to eliminate funding for the station, saying it was not effective in reaching the Cuban people.