- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 21, 2005

NEW YORK — Negotiations to create a more reputable U.N. human rights body have collapsed, leaving a key U.S. reform demand unfulfilled as diplomats seek to conclude a broad budget and reform deal by year’s end.

With only three days until a planned Christmas recess, Secretary-General Kofi Annan called yesterday for diplomats to compromise and relieve an “atmosphere of threats and intimidation” in the conference rooms.

“I think the only choice they have is to sit down and talk honestly and sincerely and frankly to each other and try and come to an understanding. But they have to put the interests of the organization first, not narrow interests,” he said at a year-end press conference yesterday.

The United States has said it will not consider approving a proposed $3.6 billion budget for the next two years unless it reflects a variety of savings and management innovations — a linkage opposed by the European Union and most of the developing nations.

Mr. Annan implicitly criticized U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton, whose negotiating style is far more familiar in courtrooms and Congress than it is at the United Nations.

“The most effective ambassadors I have known in this building are the ones who’ve been able to sit across the table, reach out to their colleagues and persuade them to take a course of action,” Mr. Annan said. “And I would suggest to all ambassadors who want to make progress to go that route.”

He said that the organization will have a hard time achieving its priorities for the coming year, including the fighting of poverty, terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

Envoys said the protracted negotiations over U.N. management reforms and budget issues could produce a New Year’s Eve cliffhanger.

Diplomats acknowledged Tuesday evening that they were unable to get past disagreements on the size of a new Human Rights Council and criteria for selecting its members. Discussions are scheduled to resume in January.

The General Assembly agreed this week to create a peace-building commission, which will help guide troubled nations from conflict to stability by providing technical support to establish democratic institutions.

U.N. officials today will introduce a new whistleblower-protection policy described by the U.S.-based Government Accountability Project as “the gold standard” for civil servants.

Mr. Annan was by turns resigned, philosophical and combative during his wide-ranging press conference, which touched on his final year in office, the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal and a world summit in September that fell short of expectations.

“It was both a difficult year for the world and, obviously, for me and the organization,” Mr. Annan said, noting that the moral authority of the office was unscathed.

But shortly after advising his successor to have tough skin and a sense of humor, he lashed out at a British reporter for asking about a Mercedes that Mr. Annan’s son appears to have bought in the secretary-general’s name. He called the reporter “cheeky.”

Asked about his greatest disappointment in nine years, Mr. Annan lamented his inability to prevent the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“If I go back in recent years, one thing I would have liked to see … is for us to have done everything that we could have done to avoid a war in Iraq that has brought such division within this organization and the international community,” Mr. Annan said.

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