A close House vote is expected today in lifting the 3-year-old arms embargo on Turkey.
Last-minute efforts by Majority Leader Jim Wright (D-Tex.) to work out a compromise appear to have failed.
On Friday, Wright went to the White House with the leading opponent of lifting the embargo, Majority Whip John Brademas (D-Ind.), to seek support for a compromise Brademas had accepted.
Under terms of the compromise, the embargo would have been lifted for one year if Turkey would agree to remove its troops from the city of Famagusta on Cyprus and allow the administration of the city to be under U.N. auspices, and if talks between the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots resumed in 30 days.
But President Carter, who has his support of lifting the embargo a top foreign policy priority, turned down the compromise.
Sources said the president, who won an important victory last week when the Senate voted to lift the embargo, wanted no preconditions set for the embargo's repeal.
Over the weekend, Wright again tried to develop compromise language, but he announced after meeting in his Capitol Hill office yesterday morning with both opponents and supporters of lifting the embargo that his language was "not acceptable to either side."
Attending the meeting were Assistant Secretary of State Warren Christopher; embargo supporters Brademas, Dante B. Fascell (D-Fla.) and Benjamin Rosenthal (D-N.Y.), and Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), who today will offer an amendment on the House floor similar to the one the Senate accepted last week. It would require the president to certify that progress was being made on settling the Cyprus situation before further aid could be given.
Though Wright's efforts at compromise may have failed, his support of lifting the embargo may be significant. It represents the first break in what was a solid phalanx of the Democratic leadership in the House aligned against the administration on this issue. Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr., like Brademas, opposed lifting the embargo.
Sources said if Wright decides to "take the point" for the administration on this issue, it could deliver the 15 or 20 votes Carter needs to assure victory.
Sources said Wright would like to have "more ameliorating language" to soften the bitterness surrounding the issue, which has split House Democrats right down the middle. How ameliorating the administration is willing to be may decide whether Wright "takes the point," though he definitely will vote with the president, sources said.
The ban on arms to Turkey has been in effect since 1975. Congress voted the embargo after Turkey invaded Cyprus in August 1974, occupying the northern half of the country and turning about 200,000 Greeks Cypriots into refugees.
Congress voted the embargo on grounds that Turkey used American-supplied weapons in the invasion. U.S. law says U.S. arms are to be used only for defense of a country. However, the embargo has not been absolute, since $600 million in military aid has gone to Turkey since that time.
The embargo issue will come up as the House debates a $999 million military assistance authorization bill.
The administration argues that the embargo is jeopardizing Turkish participation in NATO, and the Turks will not settle the Cyprus question under this kind of pressure.
Opponents argue, as Brademas did during debate yesterday, that U.S. officials have undermined the embargo and that if the administration would bring as much pressure on Turkey to settle the Cyprus issue as it is bringing on Congress to lift the embargo, the issue would be settled by now.
Another fight in the bill will be over lifting economic sanctions against Rhodesia. Rep. Richard Ichord (D-Mo.) will offer an amendment to lift the sanctions provided a new government is installed by free elections and the president determines the Rhodesian government has not put up barriers to free elections.
Tomorrow the House is to vote on the extremely controversial foreign aid appropriations bill.
Leadership sources say the bill, more unpopular than usual because of the current trend to cut spending, may be amended so much it will be defeated, leaving the House to pass a resolution simply continuing current aid rates later in the year.
Amendments are expected for cuts across the board, for reducing by $84 million the funds for international aid banks and for prohibitions to direct and indirect aid to communist countries and other nations, which Carter has complained ties his hands on foreign affairs.