By Harry Tamrazian in Prague
President George Bush is considering waiving US sanctions against Azerbaijan and other potential Muslim allies in his anticipated military campaign against Saudi exile Osama Bin Laden and his Taliban protectors. "The Washington Post" reported on Tuesday that the Bush administration is looking at the possibility of suspending all aid restrictions on Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Afghan opposition groups in an effort to broaden support among Muslim nations.
The so-called Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, passed by the US Congress in 1992 after intense lobbying by Armenian-American groups, severely restricts American government assistance to Azerbaijan until Baku end its blockade and other offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. The pro-Armenian clause will not have a legal force for at least one year if Bush decides to waive it.
The Armenian Assembly of America, one of the two main Armenian lobbying groups on Capitol Hill, warned the While House on Tuesday against repealing the legislation, arguing that the Azerbaijani government has failed to meet its key demands. A senior Assembly official, Bryan Ardouny, told RFE/RL that although the US president has the authority to waive the section 907, the White House administrations have until now taken into account the opinion of Congress on the issue.
"I think if the administration is looking for repeal they are also going to deal with the Senate,” he said. “And we have a lot of friends and a lot of support in the Senate for maintaining Section 907."
Ardouny said the Assembly also hopes that the Senate will reject a motion to repeal the controversial clause put by Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), a longtime opponent of the sanctions against Azerbaijan. Brownback’s attempt to kill Section 907 by adding an appropriate amendment to a defense authorization bill ended in failure on Monday.
According to Ardouny, the senator is now trying to insert the amendment into a foreign appropriation bill also pending debate now on the Senate floor.
Azerbaijan, which considers itself to be a victim of “Armenian aggression,” says the sanctions are unfair and counterproductive.