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Incoming Chairman of US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wants Answers - 2002-12-16

It will be the second time that Senator Lugar will chair the Foreign Relations Committee, after leading it in 1985 and 1986.

Although known for his mild-mannered demeanor, the moderate Republican has made clear he will hold the Bush administration accountable for its policies overseas.

The Senator plans a series of hearings on Iraq soon after the swearing-in of the new Congress. If the United States ultimately leads a coalition in a war against Iraq, Senator Lugar has questions he wants the administration to answer about its plans in the region after such action.

Will there be a military occupation, and if so for how long and at what cost? What are the plans for transforming Iraq into a democracy? All difficult issues, the Senator suggested at a hearing earlier this year. "There is an enormous expense and commitment of people as well as treasury for a number of years, and for just one country, and a country in a neighborhood of countries that may in fact feel threatened by democracy if it did evolve in Iraq. Democracy does not necessarily prevail all around this new Iraq," he says.

On a separate issue, Senator Lugar wants to press the administration on its plans to better secure the stability of Afghanistan, more than a year after a U.S. led bombing campaign to rid the country of al-Qaida terrorists and their Taleban supporters. "I continue to be concerned that the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, may not be up to the task of ensuring the requisite amount of security for Afghan reconstruction to continue," he says.

Another top priority for Senator Lugar is reducing the threat of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

He is an author of the Nunn-Lugar act, passed in 1991, which has helped eliminate thousands of nuclear warheads and secured biological and chemical weapons facilities throughout the former Soviet Union. It is an issue he continues to press. "We must be clear with Russia that full transparency and accountability must be forthcoming with respect to former Soviet stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction," he says.

On other issues, the Senator favors U.S. engagement with North Korea and Iran, two countries that have suspected nuclear weapons programs and are part of President Bush's so-called 'Axis of Evil'.

Mr. Lugar is aware that his approach to foreign policy, including his support for engagement and multilaterism, is not always shared by members of the administration. Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld often embrace a unilateral approach.

But the 70-year-old Senator remains undaunted, as he prepares to become Congress' dominant voice on foreign policy.

Senator Lugar established himself as an influential figure by persuading President Reagan in 1986 to force the ouster of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos after fraudulent elections there. Later in the year he joined with Democrats to pass a measure imposing sanctions against apartheid in South Africa, and overriding a presidential veto. It was one of President Reagan's worst foreign policy defeats.