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Top U.S. official won’t resign over China flap
Berger calls allegations ‘outrageous’

SHARE Top U.S. official won’t resign over China flap
Berger calls allegations ‘outrageous’

WASHINGTON -- National Security Adviser Sandy Berger defended Sunday his handling of allegations that China stole U.S. nuclear secrets and again said he would not resign, as some Republicans have demanded.

Berger, appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," also dismissed as "outrageous" suggestions that Democratic campaign contributions linked to China might have led to a lax approach in the espionage matter."You know, there's absolutely no truth to it," Berger said. "No decisions that were made in connection with a serious espionage or a serious breach of security case were affected in any way whatsoever by politics . . . It's outrageous and not based on any evidence whatsoever."

Calls by some Republicans for Berger to step down or be fired followed a report this month in the New York Times that China, in the 1980s, obtained U.S. secrets for making small nuclear weapons from the U.S. National Laboratories in Los Alamos, N.M.

China has denied the allegations, which the Clinton administration said first came to light in 1996 and 1997. Officials said the breach did serious damage to U.S. security.

After the Times report, Republicans accused the White House of dragging its feet in probing the matter and alleged that congressional leaders were not informed. Two Republican presidential candidates called for Berger to resign.

Berger said there was no attempt to withhold information from Congress, and the administration tried to balance its intent to be forthcoming with its need for secrecy during the investigation.

"I think that we acted appropriately. I think we acted swiftly, and I think we continue to impose on China the strictest of controls," Berger said. Asked if he intended to resign, Berger said, "No, I don't." He has said that previously.

President Clinton defended Berger last week and said his administration "acted aggressively" when the allegations surfaced. The president also said an FBI investigation continued, and he challenged assertions that Congress was not informed, saying the relevant committees had been briefed at least 16 times.

Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, speaking on ABC's "This Week" program, said appropriate steps were taken.

"The administration did act. We set up a counterintelligence effort, an extensive counterintelligence effort," Richardson said. In recent months, the Clinton administration began using polygraphs on employees, stepped up background checks and took other counterintelligence measures to protect security at Los Alamos, he said.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican and presidential hopeful, said he would not support Berger's resignation prior to a balanced inquiry.

But McCain called for a complete investigation that would cover not only the allegations in the nuclear theft case but technology transfers to China.