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Clinton Rejects Yeltsin’s Request to Repeal Jackson-vanik Amendment

President Clinton has rejected an appeal by Russian President Boris Yeltsin to repeal a law that conditions U.S.-Russian trade relations on the freedom of Jews and others to leave the country.

Responding to Yeltsin’s request during a meeting in Cologne, Germany, over the weekend, Clinton said the law, known as Jackson-Vanik, still applies due to the “rise of anti-Semitic statements and rhetoric, particularly from the nationalists and particularly from Yeltsin’s opponents and enemies,” according to Sandy Berger, Clinton’s national security adviser, who attended the meeting.

“Yeltsin was very firm” in his response to Clinton, Berger told reporters.

“Provide me with all of the material you have and I will really sit on them,” Yeltsin said, referring to those engaged in anti-Semitic rhetoric, according to Berger.

Congress has suspended the sanctions imposed by the Jackson-Vanik amendment but has not formally “graduated” Russia from the measure, which over the years has been expanded to include other countries.

Mark Levin, executive director of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, praised Clinton for taking a tough stand with Yeltsin and said the gravity of the Russian premier’s response is noteworthy.

“It’s important to acknowledge the seriousness with which the United States views the issue of anti-Semitism,” Levin said.

As for Yeltsin, “he did not slouch it off,” Levin said.

The exchange came as the American Jewish Committee reprinted in full-page ads in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times a letter to Yeltsin from all but one of the 100 members of the U.S. Senate threatening to end economic and political support for Russia unless Yeltsin confronts the rise in anti-Semitic rhetoric.

“The United States predicates its support for democratic institutions in Russia upon unwavering opposition to anti-Semitism at any level,” the senators wrote this month.

“Over the years it has not been unusual for the United States to act on this subject, linking American foreign policy with what should now be regarded as a cornerstone of human rights policies in Russia,” the letter said.

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