- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 9, 2001

The White House yesterday criticized the United Nations for voting the United States off the U.N.s international drug monitoring agency and human rights commission, but said it would not support a move in Congress to withhold U.N. dues.

"The president believes that we should pay the dues that we owe to the United Nations, but the president is also concerned about the signal the United Nations, through these two entities, is sending to the world about the seriousness with which these entities will carry out their mission in fighting for human rights or fighting against drugs," President Bush´s spokesman, Ari Fleischer, said.

It was the second time in less than a week that the Bush administration has chastised the United Nations for evicting the United States from important commissions. On Friday, the White House complained about being voted off the U.N. Human Rights Commission.

Yesterday, Mr. Fleischer groused about losing America´s seat on the International Narcotics Control Board. "The White House views that as a disappointment," Mr. Fleischer said in response to a question from The Washington Times. "It is not going to stop this president, however, from vociferously carrying out America´s role around the world in reducing the flow of narcotics and fighting the drug war at home.

"In fact, the president this week will have some announcements to make about fighting the war against drugs," Mr. Fleischer added. "And so despite this action, the president will continue to hold America high in fighting the scourge of drug abuse around the world."

An amendment to the State Department authorization bill was put before the House yesterday, to condition payment of $244 million in back dues to the United Nations on whether the United States regains its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

The State Department authorization contains a $582 million payment for 2002 and the final arrears payment of $244 million for 2003. No money would be withheld this year, giving the United Nations a year to redress the grievance.

" the United Nations to set things straight and return the United States to the UNHRC while ensuring that the bulk of our U.N. arrears payments go forward," said Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat, sponsor of the legislation and the ranking minority member on the International Relations Committee.

The amendment was co-sponsored by Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican and chairman of the International Relations Committee. The amendment is expected to have broad support from both sides of the aisle when the $8.2 billion authorization bill comes before the House in the next few days.

"It is a bipartisan amendment from two of the most respected members on foreign policy in the House. I´d be surprised if it did not have a large following," said John Feehrey, spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert.

Mr. Hyde said: "For more than a decade the U.S. has urged reform of the U.N. system. What occurred last week was a step backward. Some of the world´s premier human rights violators are now prominent members of the human rights commission.

"In a clear voice, we must express our disapproval of this outrage, and work to restore some credibilty to this agency," he said.

Mr. Fleischer said: "It´s hard to be committed to the cause of human rights when you´ve put Sudan and Libya on a panel that´s dedicated to fighting for the cause of human rights." Both are notorious violators of human rights and Sudan condones widespread slavery.

Mr. Fleischer said: "The real losers in this equation are the people around the world who are struggling to be free. The United States is going to continue its role as a beacon of freedom and human rights, and the president will continue to speak out. It´s unfortunate that this panel of the United Nations will be a weakened voice in that effort."

Some critics have blamed Secretary of State Colin Powell for losing the seats on the commissions by failing to vigorously lobby other nations for support. But the White House strongly rejected such talk. "Does the president have a blame-America-first reaction to something that hurts people all around the world, when it was these other nations that caused this to take effect?" Mr. Fleischer said. "The answer is clearly no."

Other Bush detractors have noted that while the president has named John Negroponte as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the nomination has not yet been confirmed by the Senate. "I don´t think the fact that the Senate may or may not have confirmed somebody for the U.N. ambassador position would have had an impact on people keeping their word when they made a written promise to the United States government," Mr. Fleischer said.

The administration insists it will spend no time trying to figure out which nations voted against the United States on secret ballots. Washington was promised 40 votes on the balloting for membership on the Human Rights Commission, but received only 29 when the votes were cast on Thursday.

"In a secret ballot, where people give you a written assurance, saying, 'Yes, we are voting for you,´ and then they don´t keep their word when it counts, it´s not likely that they´re going to keep their word when you ask them, or tell you, 'Oh, yes, we´re one of those nations that gave you a written commitment, but then we voted against you in reality,´" Mr. Fleischer said. "It´s not exactly the type of action or behavior that most nations 'fess up to,´" he said. "The United States had the written assurances of those nations. Those nations did not keep their word."


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