President Bush, after meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, will announce up to $3 billion in agriculture export credits to Moscow, congressional sources said Wednesday.
To extend the credits, Bush also was expected to waive for one year the 1974 Jackson-Vanik Act that bars preferential credits to the Soviet Union as long as it maintains restrictive emigration policies on Soviet Jews and other minorities.Shevardnadze, who arrived in Washington Tuesday after a two-day meeting with Secretary of State James Baker in Houston, arranged a late afternoon meeting Wednesday with Bush in the Oval Office. An announcement was expected following the hourlong session.
White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater told reporters Monday that the administration is considering lifting the ban on credits to the Soviet Union because of its critical food shortages and President Mikhail Gorbachev's supporting policies in the Persian Gulf.
Bush also signaled a change in policy at a special ceremony in the Executive Office Building Wednesday to mark the first day of Hanukkah celebrating ancient Jewish liberation from persecution, saying the Soviets had permitted 150,000 of its citizens to emigrate this year. Most of them, at the rate of 1,000 to 2,000 a day, have moved to Israel.
Earlier, Bush had specified that there would be no easing of the Jackson-Vanik restriction until the Soviet Parliament codified the more liberal emigration policies.
Credits for the Soviet central government have been pushed by the American agricultural community. Jewish leaders of some 32 organizations expressed their support last week at congressional hearings.
The immigration flow into Israel and warming relations with the Soviet Union apparently were the impetus for their change of heart.
Shevardnadze arranged to meet in the early evening with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who is on a private visit to Washington. The meeting would represent the highest diplomatic contact between the Soviet Union and Israel in history.
The Soviets have been purchasing chicken parts and wheat flour and the United States exported 20.3 million metric tons of corn and wheat to the Soviet Union in 1990.
Officials said that representatives of the Soviet Republic of Russia had been shopping around in Washington recently for agriculture credits, but they stressed Bush was dealing with the central government.