WASHINGTON (Feb. 2)
A substantial number of members of both houses of Congress have put their signatures on a concurrent resolution serving notice to the Soviet government that they are continuing to watch with concern the harassment of Jews and other minorities in the Soviet Union.
The resolution, sponsored by Sen. Frank Church (D. Idaho) and Rep. Toby Moffett (D. Conn.) has garnered 42 signatures in the Senate and 87 in the House from members of both parties. It states that the harassment “profoundly offends the conscience of a free people” and resolves that the “sustained interest of the American people be conveyed to the Soviet government regarding adherence to the Helsinki Declaration.” The resolution notes that the Helsinki accords include free movement of people, reunification of families and general freedom to emigrate.
Moffett said in a floor speech yesterday that it was “imperative” for the Congress to “express the concern of the American people to the Soviet government.” He said that “While the number of Jews allowed to leave the Soviet Union has risen in the past few months, ostensibly to improve relations with the new Administration, there are reportedly still Jews in Soviet prison camps and as many as 125,000 activist Jews who desire to leave the country.” The House will conduct hearings later this month on the subject of human rights in the USSR.
U.S. WILL NOT BACK DOWN
Meanwhile, President Carter told Soviet Ambassador Anatoly F. Dobrynin at a meeting in the White House yesterday that the U.S. will not back down on its commitment to strengthen human rights in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. The President made it clear, according to a White House statement, that “We are not attacking the Soviet Union, but we are expressing our commitment on human rights.” According to the White House, the meeting with Dobrynin, which was attended by Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance, was devoted mainly to arms limitation.
The White House said the President did not refer directly to the Soviet Nobel Laureate and dissident Andrei D. Sakharov who was the subject of a State Department statement a week ago that angered the Soviet Union. The statement, in defense of Sakharov, had not been cleared by either Carter or Vance and reportedly embarrassed the Administration. But Carter’s raising of the subject of human rights with Dobrynin tended to refute reports to that effect.
In fact, within only weeks of taking office, the new Administration has vigorously affirmed its concern over violations of human rights in the Soviet Union and elsewhere, notwithstanding the top priority it attaches to reaching an arms limitation agreement with Moscow.
On Monday, Vance said at a news conference that the U.S. “has an obligation” to make its views known on the issue of Soviet emigration because the U.S. has “abiding respect for human rights.” He added, however, that “We do not intend to be strident or polemical.”
Vance made his remarks after a reporter noted that former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger had warned frequently that speaking out against the Soviet Union on such issues was counter-productive. Vance replied that “at times we feel it is appropriate and necessary to speak out, other times we will not.”