President Aristides Royo said yesterday that Panama will reject all parts of the legislation implementing the Panama Canal treaty that his government considers in violation of the agreements.
"The United States Congress has unilaterally interpreted the treaties. No secondary texts can be accepted," Royo told a news conference, adding: "If the law contradicts the treaties, we don't accept it. It is the U.S. government's problem."
The comment was the first official reaction to House passage Wednesday of the legislative package. Observers noted that despite Royo's tough tone, he did not reject the treaty itself.
Royo declined to say what aspects of the bill were unacceptable because "we have not received the official text."
But two provisions of the bill are known to be objectionable to Panama.
One grants the U.S. president the right to place canal operations under U.S. military authorities if he decides it is in danger from foreign military forces.
The second prohibits the president from transferring the canal to Panama before completion of the treaty term at the end of 1999.
In Washington, Sate Department spokesman Hodding Carter said the United States is "satisfied the implementing legislation does not conflict with the treaties. We are confident that as the Panamanian government studies the legislation, its concerns will be met. There may be conflicts of interpretation and if so we would be willing to discuss them and [we] feel that they can be resolved."