- The Washington Times - Friday, September 29, 2000

A survey funded by Ted Turner's Better World Campaign, which promotes the United Nations, was released yesterday showing that Americans are evenly divided on whether the United States should fund U.N. peacekeeping missions abroad.
Former Sen. Tim Wirth, who heads the Turner operation, put the numbers in the best light. "There is no political price to be paid for doing the right thing," he said at a downtown luncheon.
Congress is considering the Clinton administration's request for $739 million to fund 25 percent of the U.N. peacekeeping missions in Asia, Europe and Africa this year. The United Nations sets the U.S. share of peacekeeping at 33 percent, but the United States has unilaterally lowered its payment to 25 percent.
On June 26, the House agreed to pay less than that, appropriating $498 million for U.N. peacekeeping missions in Asia, the Middle East and Europe, while providing no funds at all for peacekeeping missions in Africa.
On July 18, the Senate appropriated $500 million, of which $161 million is slated for African peacekeeping.
The Better World Campaign lobbies Congress to support the United Nations. Its television and newspaper advertisements, some of which have appeared in this newspaper, helped persuade Congress to conditionally approve the payment of nearly $1 billion in U.N. arrears.
The current campaign is intended to "give Congress cover to do the right thing," namely to pay the American share of U.N. peacekeeping.
Most of those surveyed, 74 percent, said they were favorably disposed toward the United Nations in general, but 54 percent considered it just "somewhat effective."
Most of those questioned said they considered themselves politically active and "well informed" on current affairs. But only 33 percent had heard of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and only 14 percent had a favorable impression of him.
The survey of 800 registered voters, conducted Aug. 7-9 by Talmey-Drake Research Strategy, asked questions about the United Nations and U.S. funding responsibility for U.N. peacekeeping.
Respondents were evenly split on whether the United States should pay or not pay the money "it owes" to the United Nations, with 48 percent approving of payment and 47 percent siding against U.S. payment.
But Better World Campaign officials said the numbers changed when pollster Bill McInturff "injected information into the questions" to determine what might persuade respondents to approve U.S. payments.
Some 37 percent still disapproved of payment, but 57 percent then voted to approve payment.
The pollsters found that the most "convincing" arguments against funding of U.N. peacekeeping were the "failed U.N. peacekeeping mission in Somalia" that cost American lives, and the statement: "The U.S. should not be the world's policeman."
But 43 percent were persuaded to pay for peacekeeping when that argument was turned around. When told that the United States would not have to bear all the risks of dealing with world trouble spots alone if it contributed to U.N. peacekeeping, a number of people were won over to that position.
The amount of money finally appropriated for U.N. peacekeeping is likely to be worked out in the final days of budget negotiations between the White House and Congress late next month.

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