- The Washington Times - Monday, November 19, 2001

Washington pays up
The United States last week deposited more than a half-billion dollars in U.N. accounts a payment that would have felt far more newsworthy if not for the dramatic images from Afghanistan and the stream of diplomats lining up to address the U.N. General Assembly.
But the money is a milestone, and brings the United States about as close to fully paid up as it's going to get with the international organization.
The payment $475 million in cash and another $107 million in forgiveness of U.N. peacekeeping debts to the United States is the second and largest slice of the 1998 Helms-Biden money, which was authorized after the U.S. assessments were reduced a year ago.
The money will be used to reimburse governments that have contributed troops and materiel to peacekeeping missions over the years.
In all, the United States has paid a total of $1.56 billion to the organization this year, according to Patrick Kennedy, the U.S. diplomat in charge of financial and management matters.
That figure includes current and overdue payments to the regular budget and peacekeeping budgets, plus money for the U.N. tribunals and a $31 million contribution from Ted Turner to help other nations meet their suddenly increased peacekeeping assessments.
U.N. officials, needless to say, were pleased. "Substantially everything they said they would do, they did, in only about six weeks," said Joseph Connor, the U.N. undersecretary-general of administration and management. He was referring to the Bush administration's embrace of the United Nations after the bombing of the Pentagon and World Trade Center.
Another $100 million for the regular budget is included in the pending State Department authorization bill, and should arrive by the end of the year.
The final installment of Helms-Biden money, $244 million, is mostly earmarked for the U.N. funds and programs in Geneva and Vienna, Austria, and is subject to various certifications and conditions that have largely been met, according to Mr. Kennedy.
According to U.N. accounting, the United States still owes about $600 million for long-disputed bills, such as an Ethiopian conference center that Washington says was unnecessary, and aid to Palestinians whom the United States considers terrorists.

Going without mail
That $475 million was an electronic transfer of funds, by the way, not a check sent through the mail. And a good thing, too, because the United Nations has not had a general mail delivery since Oct. 24 the day that postal workers in New Jersey became sick with anthrax.
The organization has decided it will not handle any outside mail until it can be irradiated for safety. But many others from the U.S. government to media outlets to private companies have had the same thought, and there aren't enough machines to go around.
U.N. officials have been trying to buy their own machine but there is, as Mr. Connor diplomatically put it, "a sellers' market," and the price has skyrocketed.
In the meantime, the organization is trucking the mail to an unnamed commercial facility where a limited amount of "priority" mail is being zapped and returned to New York. But for most staffers, the mailboxes remain empty.

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