- The Washington Times - Monday, May 1, 2006

NEW YORK — The United Nations appears to be headed for a budget crisis in June after Third World nations blocked a sweeping U.N. reform package backed by the West.

Britain and the United States condemned the Friday night vote that scuttled proposals by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to overhaul the world body in the wake of the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal.

Supported by the United States, the European Union and Japan — which among provide a combined 80 percent of the U.N. budget — Mr. Annan wanted to transfer key spending and management decisions from the unwieldy 191-member General Assembly to a strengthened professional secretariat.

But in a dispute that has exposed the rift between wealthy and developing nations, the Third World grouping used its voting power to derail the proposals, which it fears will reduce its influence.

The vote is likely to spark renewed efforts within Congress to withhold payments to the world body.

Adam Thomson, Britain’s deputy head of mission, expressed dismay at what he called the “destructive move” by the so-called Group of 77 — which represents 132 poorer nations — after it forced the vote in a budget committee that traditionally works by consensus.

France’s U.N. ambassador, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, said, “This was a victory for the radicals.”

Western diplomats fear the ambush has sabotaged the best chance for reforming the organization after its authority was left in tatters by revelations of corruption and incompetence in the oil-for-food program.

The United Nations faces an immediate funding crisis after the 108-50 vote because the assembly agreed in December, at the insistence of the U.S., to delay setting a two-year budget until there was progress on reforms. Instead, it set a temporary budget that will run out at the end of June.

U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton said, “Proponents of the resolution will realize they won a Pyrrhic victory.”

Although he said the United States did not intend to cripple the organization financially, the implication that there would be a financial cost was clear. The United States provides 22 percent of the U.N. budget, followed by Japan, which pays 19.5 percent and was also angered by the vote.

But prominent developing nations are furious at what they see as financial blackmail by the developed world and say wealthy states are obliged under the U.N. charter to pay their full share of the dues.

Pakistan’s U.N. ambassador Munir Akram, said, “Fulfilling your obligation under the charter does not entitle you to greater privileges.”

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