- The Washington Times - Monday, June 12, 2006

NEW YORK — One of the Senate’s most prominent conservatives came to the United Nations yesterday to explain that Middle America does appreciate the work of the world body, they just want to see it better managed.

Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, visited Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown to rebut what he considered unfair criticism of the American people.

“I expressed disappointment on the lack of insight that was displayed in the speech given last week,” Mr. Coburn told reporters after meeting in Mr. Malloch Brown’s office. “The vast majority of Oklahomans believe in the function of the U.N. and recognize the positive contributions.”

However, he added, the international organization still suffers from a lack of transparency and accountability. Mr. Coburn has scheduled a hearing on plans to renovate the aging U.N. headquarters later this month.

Mr. Malloch Brown, the senior deputy to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, set off a firestorm of criticism last Tuesday when he said that “Middle America” doesn’t know about the good work the United Nations does because Washington rarely defends the world body against its critics.

“The prevailing practice of seeking to use the U.N. almost by stealth as a diplomatic tool, while failing to stand up for it against its domestic critics, is simply not sustainable,” Mr. Malloch Brown told two left-leaning think tanks.

He also said that U.N. successes are better reported in the Middle East than in Middle America because “much of the public discourse that reaches the U.S. heartland has been largely abandoned to its loudest detractors such as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.”

The next day U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton blasted the remarks as “condescending” and “patronizing,” and threatened to make the United Nations “a victim” if Mr. Annan did not immediately repudiate the speech.

But Mr. Annan is standing by his deputy, and on Thursday urged everyone to let it go.

Bush administration officials have not fleshed out the details of their strategy, but they do note that the organization is less than three weeks away from a fiscal crisis.

The U.N.’s current spending authority expires at the end of June and Washington and other key donor states must come to an agreement with the rest of the membership on how to make substantial management changes before that time.

The United States pays one-quarter of the U.N.’s operating budget.

“We are now perilously near the deadline, and it is far from clear that enough reform to satisfy them has been achieved,” wrote Mr. Annan in an op-ed piece in yesterday’s Financial Times. “Neither side has found a way of engaging with the other to agree on further reforms.”

Although Mr. Malloch Brown, who is British, has insisted that he is not anti-American, his remarks have riled Midwestern lawmakers. Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican and an outspoken critic of U.N. mismanagement, was scheduled to take the House floor last night “to support the deputy secretary-general’s immediate removal,” said his spokesman, Stephen Schatz.

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