- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 28, 2006

NEW YORK — U.N. member states approved an 18-month budget yesterday despite objections from the United States, which had tried to hold up the package while it pressed for administrative reforms proposed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

It still is not clear whether Congress, which has strongly advocated sweeping reforms for the world body, will authorize the payment of annual dues later this year.

The General Assembly’s budget group, called the Fifth Committee, agreed to authorize expenditures for the rest of the biennium. Japan and Australia did not join the consensus, but neither did they block it.

“It’s been clear for some time that the expenditure cap would be lifted,” John R. Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., told reporters. “As a practical matter, the leverage was gone, or certainly would be gone in the next two days. And I think that’s unfortunate, since with the cap in place we haven’t achieved substantial reform and now the question is, with the cap gone will we achieve substantial reform?”

The U.N. budget is paid by U.N. member states and normally is planned in two-year increments. But in December the Bush administration negotiated a six-month spending cap, saying that costly inefficiencies could not be programmed into the budget for a full budget cycle.

“We have concerns about the wisdom of adopting a two-year budget before member states can make all the decisions needed to implement important reforms, including a mandate review,” Mr. Bolton said in December.

But the process hasn’t gone smoothly.

In April, the Group of 77, which is 133 developing nations, stalled indefinitely a package of U.N. reforms proposed by the Secretariat and endorsed by the United States, Japan, the European Union and other major contributors.

The same group has derailed progress on a comprehensive review of U.N. mandates, some of which go back to the organization’s earliest days and are of dubious value in the 21st century.

Approximately 93 percent of the 9,000 items under review have been taken off the table temporarily, according to a frustrated Secretariat official and several diplomats.

“They say they want to start with the seven percent, and get to the 93 later,” said a U.N. official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It’s all to get back at Bolton. They say, ‘You’ve got the money, but we’ve got the numbers.’ ”

The G-77, led by South Africa, has demanded that any mandate that has been renewed by the General Assembly in the past five years should not be a priority.

“This spending cap had turned into poison, turned into abuse, and begun to [erode] the trust we need,” said South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, whose nation heads the G-77. “It is hard to build trust when your colleagues disassociate themselves from you.”

But Mr. Bolton made clear yesterday that Congress has the money, and it’s up to lawmakers to decide how to release about $630 million to the United Nations later this year. The United States pays about 22 percent of the regular U.N. budget.

“I’m going to tell [Congress] the truth,” he said. “The truth is we haven’t made substantial process on reform because of the opposition of the G-77 and other countries.”

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