Sen. Paul Tsongas (D-Mass.) said yesterday that 11 of the 17 members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee oppose President Reagan's controversial nominee to head the human rights bureau of the State Department, but he predicted that a vote of the full Senate would be "very close."
The moninee, Ernest W. Lefever, is scheduled to be recalled before the committee in closed session this week to answer additional questions about the timing and circumstances currounding large contributions to his private research center by the giant Swiss conglomerate Nestle, which amoung many other products manufactures infant formula.
Lefever's center commissioned a study on the use of baby formula in developing countries at a time when Nestle was trying to counter a worldwide campaign against promotions of baby formula as opposed to breast feeding in the Third World.
Tsongas, who was questioned on "Meet the Press" (NBC, WRC), also suggested that Reagan administration officials, despite their public pronouncements of support for Lefever, have retreated to a position of silence in the normally busy private communnication channels between the administration and the Congress.
Specifically, Tsongas said Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr., "is not beating down any doors of the Senate" to affirm his support for Lefever. "In this town, as you know," Tsongas said, "there are ways of signaling support and there are ways of pulling back and letting things run their course."
Meanwhile, State Department officials say that U.S. baby formula policy, expressed during a World Health Organization session earlier this month, has brought a deluge of mail running 9-to-1 against the American position. The United States cast ther only negative vote out of 119 countries against a proposed marketing code. The code as adopted opposes the aggressive marketing of the formulas in the Third World.