- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 19, 2001

NEW YORK Budget experts at the United Nations are negotiating deep into the night this week in an effort to shoehorn into an existing budget millions of dollars in unexpected expenses to fight terrorism and establish a new office for Afghanistan.
The United States, Russia and many European governments with large U.N. assessments are insisting that the international organization meet these new demands without raising its overall budget, meaning that all new programs will have to be offset with cuts elsewhere.
"We're interested in holding the budget line, reviewing certain ongoing operations to see if there aren't economies of scale in other things," said Patrick Kennedy, the U.S. official in charge of U.N. management and budget issues. "Negotiations are going very slowly."
To make matters even more difficult, U.N. financial analysts are, for the first time in years, grappling with steadily rising inflation and the erosion of the U.S. dollar, which could cost the organization an extra $75 million a year or more.
"The reason [the budget] is going up is inflation and the exchange rate not because of any more people being added, trips being taken, or anything else," said Joseph Connor, the U.N. undersecretary general for administration and management, in an interview with The Washington Times.
Budget and management experts from most of the organization's 189-member nations have been meeting as many as three times a day to negotiate a U.N. operating budget for 2002-03.
Many developing nations, who fear the squeezing of programs they depend on, advocate an increase in the organization's roughly $1.3 billion annual budget. They repeat U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's comment that the Washington-imposed zero-growth budget has become "a starvation diet" that cannot be sustained much longer.
"This is ridiculous," said one East Asian envoy. "If you are going to add demands, you have to pay for them. We all will pay for them."
Delegates cannot break for Christmas until the budget is resolved: Just before New Year's, the organization sends bills to governments for their share of expenses.
The 15 peacekeeping missions and two genocide tribunals are funded separately.
The budget negotiations which were to have concluded last week are unexpectedly complex this year because of two late additions to the mix. Diplomats say it is too soon to know how much the new offices for counterterrorism and Afghanistan will cost.
The Security Council last month passed a binding resolution demanding all U.N. member states comply with far-reaching obligations to open up secret banking systems, share intelligence and cooperate on police work. That committee could cost about $3 million a year, according to Washington's estimations.
"We have to provide backup, we know that," Mr. Connor said, noting that is too early to know exactly how such a committee would be organized and how much it would cost to run.
The same is true of the political office for Afghanistan, which has yet to be established. The $93 million allotted for political missions including human-rights observers in Guatemala and two dozen U.N. special envoys to conflicts around the world will have to be stretched to fund the Afghanistan office.

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