- The Washington Times - Monday, January 20, 2003

Iraq tops the agenda
Fourteen foreign ministers of the 15 countries on the Security Council will be at the United Nations today to talk about terrorism.
The open meeting will take about two hours, and the speeches are expected to be public affirmations of all that is good and right. So why are so many busy officials traveling all this way on short notice?
Iraq. And North Korea. But mostly, diplomats say, Iraq.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell arrived in New York last night for private meetings with French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan and newly appointed Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez.
Mr. Powell is scheduled to meet today with the Bulgarian, German, Spanish and Russian foreign ministers, before speeding uptown to a private luncheon hosted by the French, who preside over the council this month.
The Bush administration has made it clear that it considers the status report by U.N. weapons inspectors on Jan. 27 to be a pivotal development in the buildup to war. It is a looming date that has many Security Council members not to mention other governments increasingly nervous.
Mr. Powell is expected to press Washington's case for war and to deflect demands for a second resolution that would explicitly bless military action to enforce U.N. disarmament resolutions.
"Just about every discussion he's had with foreign ministers or others these days, people involved in international affairs, has involved discussion of Iraq and North Korea, no matter which region of the world that people come from," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Friday.
The one foreign minister who could not clear his schedule was Farooq Al Shara of Syria.
Congo seeks tribunal
The Democratic Republic of Congo has petitioned the U.N. Security Council to create an international criminal tribunal to hear accusations of cannibalism, torture and rape by rebel forces.
Kinshasa's U.N. ambassador, Atoki Ileka, requested the court in a letter last week, saying the tribunal is necessary to bring to justice those responsible for genocide and other serious human rights violations in northeast Congo.
U.N. investigators confirmed the claims on Wednesday.
"They cut out the hearts and other organs of their victims and forced families to eat them," said U.N. spokeswoman Patricia Tome in Kinshasa. "These armed groups are composed of freaks, and these freaks are out of control."
The United Nations identified the group as the Movement for the Liberation of Congo. It is funded by Uganda and run by Jean Pierre Bemba, who has emerged as a political challenger to Congolese President Joseph Kabila.
Mr. Bemba said he was "shocked" at the claims and promised to cooperate with authorities to root out the perpetrators. He said he supported a court that would look into atrocities throughout Congo, not just Ituri province.
U.N. investigators sent to the area this month interviewed 368 persons, Miss Tome said, including victims and witnesses, who said the rebels described their assault as "wiping the slate clean."
Japan wants dues cut
The Japanese government plans to seek a substantial reduction in its contribution to the U.N. annual budget, Foreign Ministry officials said last week.
Faced with a shrinking economy and public disillusionment with "checkbook diplomacy," Tokyo is reassessing its generous foreign contributions.
The Foreign Ministry indicated it hopes to cut its $265 million annual payment to a little more than $200 million. Officials note that Japan the second-largest contributor pays nearly 20 percent of the total U.N. budget, even though its share of the world's gross domestic product is 14 percent.
If Tokyo is successful, the money will have to come from other member states because new members Switzerland and East Timor will not contribute nearly enough to make up the difference.
Two years ago, the United States demanded and got a 4 percent reduction in its regular contribution, meaning that Washington pays 22 percent of the organization's $1.3-billion-a-year budget. However, the United States accounts for nearly one-third of world GDP.
The U.N. budget is reviewed by the General Assembly every three years, usually culminating in all-night meetings in mid-December.
Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]


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