- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is asking Congress to block U.S. funds for any United Nations entity that supports giving the Palestinians an elevated status at the U.N.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican, in legislation made public Tuesday, also would ban U.S. contributions to the U.N. Human Rights Council and an anti-racism conference known for anti-Israel rhetoric.

Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen is a longtime critic of the United Nations. Her legislation would withhold a portion of U.S. dues to the international body if it does not change its funding system so that dues are paid on a voluntary rather than assessed basis.

She said the U.N. continues to be plagued by scandal, mismanagement and inaction and “this bill is about making the U.N. work again.”

The bill, with 57 cosponsors, comes forth as the U.N. General Assembly prepares to vote on recognizing Palestinian statehood regardless of the outcome of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. In an op-ed in the Miami Herald on Sunday, Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen said her bill follows the example of George H.W. Bush, who in 1989 succeeded in stopping the U.N. from recognizing a Palestinian state by threatening to cut off U.S. financial support.

But State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, at a briefing Tuesday, said the department opposed the legislation, saying “it would seriously undermine our international standing and dangerously weaken the U.N. as an instrument to advance U.S. national security goals.”

She said the legislation is being introduced at a time when “the U.N. is now doing more than ever to advance U.S. key interests” in such areas as Iran, North Korea and South Sudan.

Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen’s proposal would push the U.N. to adopt a voluntary funding system and would withhold 50 percent of the U.S. nonvoluntary regular budget contributions if, after two years, 80 percent of the U.N. regular budget is not funded on a voluntary rather than assessed basis.

In the 2010 budget year, the U.S. gave $7.7 billion to the U.N. for its regular budget, peacekeeping and other programs, up from $6.1 billion the previous year.

The legislation also bars U.S. contributions to the U.N. Human Rights Council, to the Goldstone Report that accused Israel of war crimes but which the author has since backed away from, and to the Durban conference against racism scheduled for the U.N. headquarters next month. The Obama administration already has said it will boycott that conference because of concerns about anti-Semitism.