- The Washington Times - Friday, January 21, 2000

NEW YORK Sen. Jesse Helms Thursday blasted the United Nations for its "lack of gratitude" to the United States, sternly warning that the international body risks U.S. withdrawal if it continues "to impose its presumed authority on the American people."

"They see the U.N. aspiring to establish itself as the central authority of a new international order of global laws and global governance. This is an international order the American people will not countenance," said the North Carolina Republican, perhaps the U.N.'s staunchest critic.

Mr. Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the first member of Congress ever to address the 15-member Security Council, was coolly received by the executive body. After his fiery 40-minute speech, there was no applause.

While Mr. Helms said he was appearing before the body's Security Council to extend a "hand of friendship," he added that "candor compels that I reiterate this warning: The American people will never accept the claims of the United Nations to be the 'sole source of legitimacy on the use of force' in the world.

"A United Nations that seeks to impose its presumed authority on the American people without their consent begs for confrontation, and I want to be candid eventual U.S. withdrawal."

Mr. Helms facing council members fully aware that he had come to denounce many aspects of the United Nations did not mince words. He opened by saying, "It may very well be that some of the things I feel obliged to say will not meet with your immediate approval if at all."

He then lashed the body for charges that the United States is a "deadbeat nation" for not paying more than $1 billion in dues.

Mr. Helms said that while the United States had agreed, under certain conditions, to pay $926 million toward U.N. arrears of well over $1 billion, it actually spent $8.8 billion last year to support "various U.N. resolutions and peacekeeping operations around the world."

"The money we spend on the U.N. is not charity. To the contrary, it is an investment an investment from which the American people rightly expect a return.

"They have grown increasingly frustrated with what they feel is a lack of gratitude," he said.

Mr. Helms said the United Nations must not only trim its spending, but cease drawing the United States into "entangling alliances."

On that topic, too, Mr. Helms left no room for misunderstanding.

Mr. Helms told the Security Council it had a "mixed record" in recent conflicts.

While it "performed admirably" in ending Iraqi aggression against Kuwait in 1990 and 1991, "In the more recent case of Kosovo, it was paralyzed," he said.

"The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Bosnia was a disaster, and its failure to protect the Bosnian people from Serb genocide is well documented," he added.

Mr. Helms also took issue with Secretary-General Kofi Annan's calls for increased "global engagement." The United Nations "must respect national sovereignty" and not seek "to impose its utopian vision of international law on Americans."

"What the secretary-general calls 'rights beyond borders' we in America call 'inalienable rights,' " the senator said. Quoting the U.S. Constitution, he said those rights were endowed "not by kings or despots, but by our Creator."

The American people, he said, have a "long history of coming to the aid of those struggling for freedom." It is a "fanciful notion that free peoples need to seek the approval of an international body to lend support to nations struggling to break the chains of tyranny and claim their inalienable, God-given rights."

He also lambasted a proposed treaty for an International Criminal Court, which would claim jurisdiction over American soldiers even without ratification from Washington.

Mr. Helms said Americans have drawn their own conclusion about the motives of the world body.

"As matters now stand, many Americans sense that the U.N. has greater ambitions than simply being an efficient deliverer of humanitarian aid, a more effective peacekeeper, a better weapons inspector, and a more effective tool of great power diplomacy.

"If the United Nations is to survive into the 21st century, it must recognize its limitations," he said.

After Mr. Helms' speech, ambassadors from Russia, France and other countries responded by denouncing U.S. failure to pay all its dues.

"All the other members of the United Nations expected the United States to keep its word," said Sergey Lavrov, Russia's representative.

Chinese ambassador Qin Huasun told the staunchly anti-communist senator, in a masterpiece of understatement, that "our views may not be completely identical," adding that the United Nations could be effective only if it respected sovereignty, equality among states and noninterference.

While the day was the height of decorum and diplomacy, there were some fireworks. After Mr. Helms castigated Cuban President Fidel Castro in his speech, the country's U.N. envoy, Bruno Rodriguez, who is not a council member, raced to the front of the hall and said the senator's remarks were "unacceptable and slanderous."

U.S. Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke, who had invited Mr. Helms to address the council, gaveled Mr. Rodriguez into silence.

In another bit of understatement, Mr. Holbrooke delivered a simple post-speech assessment of the senator's performance during the speech, in which Mr. Helm's occasionally banged his hands on the table to emphasize a point:

"It was something."

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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