WASHINGTON (AP) _ Agricultural commodities, livestock and products would be exempt from unilateral U.S. sanctions against foreign countries under a bill approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee on Wednesday.

The committee action, on a 17-1 vote, sends the bill to the full Senate. Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., was the sole dissenter.

``No sector of the U.S. economy is more reliant on international trade than agriculture,'' said Committee Chairman Dick Lugar, R-Ind., the bill's author. ``The continued viability of U.S. agriculture depends on our ability to have access, as unfettered as possible, to world markets.''

The panel at the last minute agreed to an amendment by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., which narrowed the circumstances under which the president could impose agricultural sanctions.

The original version allowed the president to impose the sanctions if he deemed it in the national interest. The amendment changed that provision to allow the president to impose sanctions only if there is a declaration of war or if Congress agrees it is in the national interest.

The bill is just one of several sanctions bills moving through Congress. Others include provisions to lift sanctions on medicine and medical equipment as well as food.

The Clinton administration last month opened the way for the sale of food and medical items to Iran, Libya and Sudan.

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The bill is S.566.