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U.S. Taking Hard Line On Abortion

The Bush Administration, in what looms as a tough fight with other nations, is trying to revise a worldwide family planning agreement to eliminate language that could promote abortion.

With White House approval, American negotiators intend to change or remove the support for reproductive health services and reproductive rights that were contained in the final declaration of a UN population conference in 1994.

The development was first reported in Saturday's New York Times.

A State Department official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of not being identified by name, said Saturday the administration was negotiating for the approval of new language by the Asian and Pacific Population Conference.

The U.S. campaign, at talks in Bangkok, Thailand, parallels a decision in July to withhold $34 million in assistance to the UN Population Fund on grounds its programs promote abortion.

In September, President Bush formally shifted the funds to an American-run program to boost children's health overseas.

Secretary of State Colin Powell had supported the UN program saying it did "invaluable work," providing "critical population assistance to developing countries."

Critics said the administration's decision was politically driven.

The official declined to tell the AP what steps the administration might take if it looses out in the current dispute. She said the administration hopes a consensus on language supported by everyone could be found so that there was no possible interpretation that support was being given to the legalization or promotion of abortion.

According to accounts in the Times, the U.S position has drawn criticism from Chinese, Indian and Indonesian officials, who argued it would undermine a global consensus on population policy.

Some European nations and Congressional Democrats also were said to be dismayed.

The 1994 conference was hailed by supporters of women's rights and advocates of checking explosive population growth, by giving women more control of their lives.

But the U.S. official said the declaration eight years ago could be read as support for abortions as an instrument for family planning.