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Campaign cramping Carter foreign policy?

Presidential commitments to foreign nations are one thing, but the struggle to get re-elected is something else. So Jimmy Carter -- and Americans -- are finding out, as election pressures and the Democratic Party platform clash with the President's policies on Jerusalem, nuclear power, the fight against inflation, and free trade.

On the status of Jerusalem, experts agree, President Carter can hardly accede to the language of his party platform without jeopardizing the economic stability of the United States.

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The American Embassy in Israel, the platform states, "should be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem" as a "symbol" of the party's recognition of the Holy City as the capital of Israel.

Such a move, many observers believe, would cause an abrupt cutoff of Arab oil from the US and the alignment of almost all Arab and other Muslim states, moderate and radical, against the United States.

Currently the US imports nearly 3 million barrels of oil daily from Arab nations, roughly 17 percent of all petroleum consumed by Americans. Most of this oil comes from Saudi Arabia (1.4 million barrels daily), Libya (637,000), and Algeria (533,000).

Saudi Arabia and Iraq, later joined by other Arab states, have pledged to break diplomatic and economic relations with any nation actively accepting the new Israeli law describing Jerusalem as the permanent and undivided capital of the Jewish state.

A number of Latin American countries now are hastily moving their embassies from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv, where most nations maintain their diplomatic missions.

The government of the Netherlands, the only West Europen nation with an embassy in Jerusalem, now is debating whether to shift its diplomats to Tel Aviv , as Arab capitals demand.

US presidents, including Jimmy Carter, have refused to transfer the American Embassy to Jerusalem, on the grounds that the final status of that city remains unsettled.

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Less apocalyptic in potential, but nonetheless a lively domestic issue, is Carter's pledge at the June economic summit in Venice to increase US development of nuclear power.

"We underline," said the seven Venice participants, "the vital contribution of nuclear power to a more secure energy supply. . . . We shall therefore have to expand our nuclear-generating capacity."

The party platform on which Carter is running, by contrast, calls for the retirement of "nuclear power plants in an orderly manner," as energy conservation and the development of alternative fuels permit.

This reflects the conviction of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and may other Democrats that American use of nuclear power -- except for the future use of fusion -- should lessen, not grow.

Also in conflict is Carter's policy reaffirmed at Venice, of raising domestic oil prices to the world level. Senator Kennedy has insisted that price controls be maintained on US oil to shelter low-income Americans.

American officials also helped to write into the Venice communique that "the reduction of inflation is our immediate top priority and will benefit all nations."

This accords with the President's advocacy of fiscal and monetary restraint to curb inflation, even though the results have been higher interest rates and rising unemployment in the United States.

Now, to win the support of Kennedy forces, Carter has accepted the "spirit and intent" of something quite different, a platform pledge to take no action -- fiscal, monetary, or budgetary -- "whose effect will be a significant increase in unemployment."

Pressure is mounting on Mr. Carter to impose import curbs on certain foreign goods, with emphasis on autos and steel, to protect American workers from job loss.

Consistently the President has stood for free trade, in line with the US commitment to reduce trade barriers, embodied in the multilateral trade negotiations (MTN) ratified by Congress last year.

Recently, however -- with hundreds of thousands of Americans in the automobile and related industries laid off -- Mr. Carter asked the International Trade Commission (ITC) to determine whether foreign car imports, mostly Japanese , were causing serious injury to Detroit carmakers.

The ITC will not make its finding until mid-November, thus relieving the President of having to decide on import restrictions in the heat of an election campaign. The Democatic Party platform is not prodding the President in this case either. It calls only for "safeguarding domestic industry from unfair trade practices." Nonetheless, both the Ford Motor Company and the United Automobile Workers are pressing Mr. Carter to act soon.

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