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DECISION NEAR ON BUGGED EMBASSY
ANNEX MIGHT BE BUILT NEAR U.S. FACILITY IN MOSCOW FOR SECRET BUSINESS

SHARE DECISION NEAR ON BUGGED EMBASSY
ANNEX MIGHT BE BUILT NEAR U.S. FACILITY IN MOSCOW FOR SECRET BUSINESS

Secretary of State James Baker III is close to making his decision on the fate of the bug-riddled U.S. Embassy building in Moscow, with one key option being to construct an annex for top-secret business, officials say.

But some members of Congress might balk at that idea as "empire building," said Rep. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, a congressional expert on the embassy debacle."It would look like we're rewarding the State Department for exorbitant mistakes in the past," she said. "They have to justify the need" for a new building, she said.

Officials at the State Department said Baker's decision on the multimillion-dollar fiasco could come this week.

"Baker is nearly ready to make a decision. The intelligence community has signed onto a plan," said one department official, speaking on condition he remain anonymous.

But he said Baker has not approved the proposal, which would then be sent to President Bush before it is transmitted to Congress.

Baker's dilemma, which he inherited from the Reagan administration, is what should be done with the bug-infested, red-brick building that has never been used by American diplomats.

Listening devices and eavesdropping equipment were discovered in the building in 1985, 13 years after the United States and the Soviet Union signed a construction agreement that allowed Soviet builders to do the job.

Over the past four years, State Department officials have floated a number of possible options for the building, known in Washington circles as the NOB, or New Office Building.

They include razing the building and replacing it with a secure facility; ripping out only the top floors to make them bug-free, or constructing a new annex as a place for secret talks and transmissions.

In April, two key department officials, Ambassador Nicholas Salgo and Ivan Selin, undersecretary for management, told Baker that constructing an annex would be cheaper than the estimated $500 million that might be needed to tear down the NOB and replace it.

The annex idea follows a recommendation by James Schlesinger, the former defense secretary, who prepared a report on the embassy for the Reagan administration. He also suggested making the top three floors of the existing building secure.

A month before Bush was elected, former President Reagan advocated razing the building, saying the United States had "no choice" but to do so.

But congressional sources, also speaking on condition of anonymity, say the annex solution now appears high on the department's agenda.

Rep. Neal Smith, D-Iowa, chairman of the House panel that appropriates money for the State Department, said one possibility being discussed is for the United States to buy the so-called "change" building - the place Russian workers changed clothes - that is situated between the old U.S. Embassy building and the new building.

The change building would be torn down and replaced with a secure annex. The bugged building could then be used for other purposes, perhaps a cultural center, a visa office or an office for visiting American business executives.

The department has not asked for additional money for the embassy building in the 1990 fiscal year.

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(ADDITIONAL INFORMATION)

How they voted

SENATE

- The Senate voted to prohibit using federal funds to provide free hypodermic needles to drug addicts to reduce the likelihood of contamination with the AIDS virus caused by shared use.

- The Senate voted to increase U.S. aid to El Salvador.

Garn Hatch

Needles No No

(passed, 99-0)

El Salvador aid Yes Yes

(passed 82-18)

HOUSE

- House members approved a new airport security bill.

Airport security Yes Yes No

(passed, 392-31)