- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 11, 2001

NEW YORK When Washington's arrears check for a half-billion dollars arrives at the United Nations, possibly by Thanksgiving, the organization will find itself in an unfamiliar position in the black.
For the first time in seven years, the United Nations will get through the year without having to borrow from the peacekeeping budget to meet payroll and other expenses.
"Stability and security is close at hand," an ebullient Joseph Connor, the U.N. undersecretary-general of administration and management, told member states yesterday. He said U.N. estimates show the organization will have $2 million in its bank account at the end of the year.
Just last week President Bush signed the authorizing legislation, the final step before Washington releases some $582 million to the organization. That money is the largest chunk of a three-year, $926 million arrears payment negotiated in 1999 by Sens. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, and Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat.
Another $877 million worth of current peacekeeping, regular budget and tribunal payments should arrive from the United States by the end of December, according to U.S. and U.N. officials. This money is the full amount of Washington's assessment for 2001 under new scales negotiated last year.
"The U.S. is very pleased that we are on a new footing financially at the United Nations," a U.S. official said yesterday.
In a briefing to the U.N. finance and management committee yesterday, Mr. Connor painted a brighter picture of the organization's finances than he has in many years.
He said that 2001 was the first time in institutional memory that payments to all three accounts regular, peacekeeping and tribunals have exceeded the assessed amounts.
"For the first time in many years, the United Nations will have a secure and solid basis from which to do business," he said yesterday. "We may need it now more than ever."
He said peacekeeping demands continued to grow, while wild fluctuations in foreign-exchange rates could hurt an organization that pays salaries and expenses in many currencies.
The United Nations' regular budget is about $1.1 billion per year. The peacekeeping department is funded separately, and is projected to cost about $3 billion in 2001, most of that for missions in Congo, Kosovo, East Timor, Sierra Leone and along the Ethiopian-Eritrean border.
The tribunals, with a burgeoning caseload and 1,800 employees, are costing about $169 million a year.
The expected U.S. arrears payment will comprise a check for $475 million and a peacekeeping credit of $107 million.
Conservative lawmakers have long argued that the organization hasn't fully appreciated or credited the U.S. contribution to peacekeeping, and say that, in fact, the organization owes Washington money.
In an interview yesterday, Mr. Connor said the United States faces no risk of censure under Article 19, in which nations that fall more than two years behind in their payments lose their vote in the General Assembly.
Nonetheless, some $600 million worth of contested arrears mostly assessments that Washington paid at a lower rate than the world body said was required will remain on the U.N. ledgers "for a very long time," said Mr. Connor.
"In short, the Secretariat got stiffed," he said yesterday.
Mr. Connor told delegations yesterday that the U.S. arrears check will be used to pay down the organization's debt to 48 nations that have contributed men and materiel to peacekeeping missions. He said the organization considered this "a debt of honor to be paid immediately."
But some delegates remained skeptical after Mr. Connor's briefing yesterday.
China also refused to rejoice.
"The briefing sounded very positive today," said Sun Minqin, budget specialist with the delegation from China, which is owed $157,000 for its peacekeeping contributions. "But the money is not yet here."
The United States and other nations are expected to respond to the presentation next Wednesday.

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