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Clinton vows to fight global desertification

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Still marveling at the natural wonders of the Botswana bush, President Clinton Tuesday promised to push this year for U.S. Senate ratification of an international treaty to slow the drying up of farmland around the globe.

After meeting with environmentalists from several African nations at the Mokolodi Nature Reserve, Clinton spoke of the impact he felt from three days in Botswana."Any human being who spends any appreciable amount of time in a uniquely pristine place full of the wonders of animal and plant life instinctively feels humanity's sacred obligation to preserve our environment," Clinton said.

He even saw a little levity in one of the creatures that crossed his path - a monitor lizard.

"I thought of all the people I would like that lizard to `monitor,' but unfortunately, I could not catch it and take it home," the president said with a chuckle.

The stage from which Clinton spoke was erected beside an education center at the game reserve. It overlooked a lush, green savannah. Colorful birds chirped, butterflies flitted from tree to tree and the sun peeked in and out of fluffy white clouds.

Clinton later was headed to Senegal for the final stop on his six-nation African tour.

The president announced that Sens. James Jeffords, R-Vt., and Russell Feingold, D-Wisc., would lead a bipartisan push for Senate ratification of the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification, which was signed in 1994. Clinton sent the measure to the Senate for ratification in 1996 but it has languished there without action.

The treaty is meant to help countries in Africa and around the world slow the encroachment of deserts on productive farmland. More than 100 countries have signed it.

About one-quarter of the African continent is desert.

Clinton also announced that NASA, the space agency, would commit satellites and ground-based surveillance equipment to a project to monitor land-use changes in southern Africa.