Congress' penchant for imposing economic sanctions deprives the administration of the flexibility necessary to carry out an effective foreign policy, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright charged Sunday.
"I think we must do something about it," Albright said on CNN's Late Edition, "because sanctions that have no flexibility, no waiver authority, are just blunt instruments. And diplomacy requires us to have some finesse."
The United States has just imposed automatic sanctions on India and Pakistan for nuclear tests. Congress is considering proposals to sanction nations accused of practicing religious persecution and Russia for selling missile technology to Iran. It will soon debate whether to penalize China for its poor human rights record.
"I can't do business, or the president can't do business, with our hands tied behind our backs," Albright said in the interview taped Friday, while she was in London.
Most sanctions passed by Congress give the president some authority to waive penalties in the interests of national security. Under a 1994 law sponsored by Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, there can be no exceptions for sanctions against countries such as India and Pakistan that break international agreements on nuclear testing.
"There is no way to induce those two countries from our perspective to get better behavior," Albright said.
Glenn, appearing later on CNN, said unilateral sanctions are problematic, and Congress should look at this issue. He said the 1994 law was tough "because some of the previous administrations had been sort of wishy-washy on sanctions."
Albright said she discussed the "proliferation of sanctions" with Senate leaders last week, and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., was receptive to forming a working group to study the question.
Critics of sanctions, such as Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., say unless they are imposed multilaterally, they mainly result in Americans losing business to other countries. "We need to make certain that we understand what we are doing with sanctions," Lugar said on CNN.