WASHINGTON, DC ( - President Bill Clinton urged US religious leaders on Monday to pull their support for a proposed law that would impose economic sanctions on countries that persecute minority religious groups.

      Clinton met with members of the National Association of Evangelicals at the White House and told them that he believed the legislation would harm efforts to promote religious freedom throughout the world rather than help them. Clinton said the threat of mandatory sanctions would put pressure on him and the rest of the government to ignore religious persecution to avoid putting penalties on important trading partners.

      The measure, sponsored in the House by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Virginia, and in the Senate by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, would ban exports of goods to foreign governments engaging in abuses. It would shut off US aid to such nations and require the administration to block loans by international financial organizations, such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. It also would establish a special White House office to monitor religious persecution overseas.

      Among countries cited by the bill's supporters as being consistent violators of religious freedom are China, Iran, Pakistan, Vietnam, Algeria, Sudan, Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia.

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April 29, 1998 volume 9, no. 83         DAILY CATHOLIC