Tuesday, May 8, 2001

The United States was voted off the U.N. international drug monitoring agency last week, on the same day it lost its seat in the U.N. Human Rights Commission, U.N. and U.S. officials said yesterday.
Both actions caused outrage on Capitol Hill, and legislators vowed retaliation, possibly including a freeze on the payment of almost $600 million in long-postponed U.N. dues.
“The United Nations stuck their finger in our eye. There is a danger that the United Nations made a serious mistake here, and there will be consequences,” said John Feehrey, spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican.
Anger that the United States has been voted off the U.N. human rights agency in Geneva is “broad-based and bipartisan,” said one senior Republican aide. But agreement on what to do next is not.
The House is scheduled to vote this week on an $8.2 million State Department authorization bill, which contains $582 million in back dues to the United Nations. Many members are talking about introducing an amendment before a deadline at noon today that would withhold the payment in retaliation.
Other lawmakers said American interests would be better served by trying to force reforms in the way the commission operates.
Either way, “there will be action and a clear signal will be sent,” said the GOP aide. “It will be a bad week for the U.N.”
On Thursday, the 53 members of the U.N. Economic and Social Council voted in New York to determine next years Human Rights Commission membership. Western Europe — including the United States, Canada and New Zealand — is allotted three seats, and this year there were four candidates.
The United States, which has been a member since 1947, was promised at least 40 votes in the secret ballot, but managed to get just 29. France, Austria and Sweden were elected instead.
The United States also lost its seat on the International Narcotics Control Board, officials said yesterday.
Washington campaigned for a third term for U.S. Ambassador Herbert Okun, who had served as vice president on the INCB. He was voted off Thursday in the same secret-ballot procedure and by the same countries that cost the United States its seat on the human rights commission.
“That, we find very regrettable,” U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday.
“We intend to continue our engagement on the international narcotics issues. We will continue our cooperation with and strong support for the U.N. international drug control program as well as with the International Narcotics Control Board.”
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan spoke briefly to reporters yesterday upon his arrival at the U.N. headquarters in New York.
“I can understand the frustration, shock and surprise,” Mr. Annan said. “This was a decision by the member states. It is one of the vagueries of democracy. When people vote, you dont know which way it will come out.”
A U.N. spokeswoman in Washington said the United Nations should not be punished for actions beyond its control.
“We hope the United Nations will not be held responsible for a vote by the member states,” said Marie-Catherine Parmly.
Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, who was in Geneva last month to lobby for the censure of Sudan, China and Cuba for human rights abuses, said the commission needs to develop rules setting minimum standards for membership.
“This action underscores the hypocrisy of the United Nations, and it makes payment **of the back dues** very difficult,” he said yesterday. “What are Syria, China and Sudan doing on the committee in good standing? It is outrageous.”
Mr. Smith said one of the options discussed was to find a way to force countries to open their doors to U.N.-appointed human rights monitors or internationally recognized organizations like the Red Cross or Amnesty International.
“The issue of membership is paramount. There needs to be a minimum threshold for membership,” he said.
Mr. Smith said he believed the loss of the seat was “payback” from European nations, which resent the United States for its strong stand against human rights abuses. He said Europeans, in pursuit of business with “rogue nations,” favor a more tepid response to human rights violators.
“They were all worried about their next contract from Beijing,” he said.

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