August 29, 2005

US senators pledge work to remove law to aid Ukraine

KIEV (Reuters) - Two prominent U.S. senators pledged on
Monday to redouble efforts to overcome resistance in Congress
and repeal a 1970s law hampering trade between the United
States and former Soviet Ukraine.

Richard Lugar, Republican head of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, and Democrat Barack Obama, discussed the
1974 Jackson-Vanick amendment during talks with Ukrainian
President Viktor Yushchenko and other leaders.

"I have offered legislation this year and before for a
repeal of Jackson-Vanick as it pertains to Ukraine. On this
occasion we are as far along as agreement in the Senate," he
told a news conference.

"There are still some objectors in the House of
representatives. I pledged to President Yushchenko that we
would work especially diligently to try to convince the
doubters and pass the bill. It's very important."

Obama said both parties supported the bill in the Senate.

"We've got to persuade some folks in the House," he said.
"I think the White House potentially can be helpful on that

The Jackson-Vanick amendment was passed by Congress at the
height of the Cold War with the aim of linking trade
concessions to the Soviet Union to progress on human rights,
particularly the right of Soviet Jews to emigrate.

Ukraine -- and neighboring Russia -- have long lobbied to
have the legislation removed on grounds that it no longer can
apply to former Soviet states. But a series of circumstances,
mainly trade rows, have prevented its cancellation.

Lugar, co-sponsor of a 1990s program to oversee destruction
of dangerous materials from the Soviet era, is visiting former
Soviet states along with Obama to see how the plans are being

The senators, who flew to Kiev from Russia, announced the
signature of an agreement providing for U.S. funds to help
Ukraine deal with and destroy pathogens in its laboratories.

They praised Yushchenko's administration, brought to power
after mass "Orange Revolution" protests forced a re-run of a
rigged election, for helping implement the accord.

"There was a change in government after the elections last
year," Lugar said.

"I had hoped the agreement might have been signed a year
ago when I visited the laboratories. That was not possible
then. It is possible now. I must congratulate the government of