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Sen. Jesse Helms is attempting to hold the Foreign Relations Committee authorization bill hostage to his truly nutty idea of transferring control of USAID's budget and merging its legislative and public affairs office with the State Department.

USAID would remain an "independent" agency. But it would have no control over its budget or program decisions, and no public voice on behalf of the needs of the world's poor. This move would place decisions about long-term investment in poverty reduction in the hands of bureaucrats concerned primarily with short-term political and strategic issues.

The Senate-House conference committee needs to insist on the House version, which would keep USAID truly independent. Helms is trying to tempt the White House to not veto the bill by linking the reorganization of USAID with payment of back dues the United States owes to the United Nations. It is important that President Clinton reject this strategy and that USAID be allowed to continue as an independent agency.

Kenneth J. Rummenie Buffalo

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