Santa Barbara, Calif
The Reagan administration is weighing whether to invoke a law authorizing the government to seize tax payments made by United States businesses operating in Panama, national-security adviser Colin Powell said yesterday. Saying that economic sanctions applied so far ``have not yet created enough pressure'' to force the ouster of Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, General Powell said ``we are examining additional pressure that might be brought to bear.''
He briefed reporters not long after giving the vacationing President Reagan an update on the Panamanian problem.
Powell acknowledged that some corporations operating in Panama have balked at having their tax payments placed in an escrow account because of a concern that it could hamper their operations.
For this reason, he said, White House advisers and other administration officials are studying the implications of invoking the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which would authorize the government to seize these payments.
``We have to be cautious before you invoke ... because it is a very powerful tool, and the staff back in Washington is examining the pros and cons'' of invoking the act, Powell said. ``And if it is a sensible thing to do, to continue to apply pressure on General Noriega, we will provide that for the President for his consideration.''
Powell refused to discuss any military options being weighed, except he indicated there would be no immediate dispatch of troops beyond the 1,300 deployed to the Central American country early this week. The soldiers and marines were headed to Panama yesterday, joining 10,000 US troops already stationed there.
Powell, an Army lieutenant general, said he believes there now is ``a reasonable degree of security'' for Americans living in Panama and the US installations there.