News

USIS Washington 
File

10 March 1998

IRAQ, MONEY MAIN TOPICS FOR CLINTON-ANNAN MEETING MARCH 11

(UN SecGen seeking support for agreement with Iraq) (1030)

By Judy Aita

USIA United Nations Correspondent



United Nations -- The repayment of the United States' massive debt to
the United Nations and the situation with Iraq constitute the
"two-part agenda" for Secretary General Kofi Annan's meeting with
President Clinton and senior members of the Clinton Administration
March 11-12, a UN spokesman said.


Annan is scheduled to meet with President Clinton, Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright, Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen, and National
Security Adviser Sandy Berger. The Secretary General will be
accompanied by Deputy UN Secretary General Louise Frechette, UN
Undersecretary General for Administration and Management Joseph
Connor, and John Ruggie, special adviser on reform issues.


"Iraq is very much on (Annan's) mind" and the Washington visit is
"part of a pattern of visits he will be making to the five permanent
members (of the Security Council) to shore up their support for the
memorandum of understanding," UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said.


In addition, the Secretary General "can't go to Washington without
talking finances. That's really the major item on the US-UN common
agenda," the spokesman said.


US Ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson said that "the objective is
going to be to renew a longstanding friendship, to continue working
together as we have on the arrears issue and on Iraq."


Richardson, who will also participate in some of the meetings, told
journalists March 10 that Annan will return to Washington in April to
meet with members of Congress on the arrears issue.


The United States owes the United Nations more than $1,704 million. Of
that, $670.9 million is for the regular budget; $1,004 million for
peacekeeping; and $29.6 million is for the international tribunals.
The United States is the major debtor to the United Nations,
accounting for 79 percent of the outstanding money owed to the world
organization for the regular budget and 60 percent of the peacekeeping
arrears.


At a press briefing March 10 Connor said that UN cash flow situation
is worsening every year and "we're hanging on by our fingernails." He
will be meeting with UN member states to alert them that "we are in a
very tight spot at this moment," he added.


The UN "doesn't have that much cash on hand and hasn't made a deal in
what needs to be paid in arrears," Connor said.


While other countries have been paying an average of 99 percent of
what they owe the UN for both the regular budget and peacekeeping, the
United States has averaged only 90 percent, he noted. Therefore, "we
will always have a negative cash flow" unless the US pays its arrears.


"We've got to break those two aspects or we're never going to get out
of this financial straitjacket that we're in," he said.


Connor said that 100 member states are have paid all their financial
obligations to the UN for this year and previous years, however, that
is "overshadowed by the major contributor (the United States) being
the concentrated portion of the monies that are owed to us. Those are
big, big percentages and unless those are broken, what the other
member states do is not as significant...in absolute dollars."


The United States has notified the UN that it expects to make a
payment of about $125 million later this month for current dues and
peacekeeping.


In 1997 the Clinton Administration and Congress worked out a deal that
would have paid a major portion of the then-$1,000 million US debt. It
would have paid $100 million right away and the remainder up to a
total of $819 million at the end of three years conditioned on the UN
meeting a series of reform benchmarks. However, while the United
Nations undertook major reforms in 1997, in November the US House of
Representatives and Senate both failed to pass the legislation that
would have authorized the payments.


Both houses of Congress voted against the bill because it was tied to
anti-abortion restrictions on funding for international population
assistance, often referred to as "Mexico City policy" that is in a
document adopted at a UN population conference in 1980. The abortion
issue is unrelated to UN administration and management.


Richardson said that the Clinton Administration is "working very
intensively with the Congress to...find a way to separate the arrears
issue from the abortion matter."


Saying that he expected the problem eventually will be resolved,
Richardson added that "the Senate will soon be taking supplemental
appropriation (legislation). We're encouraged by that, but it's going
to be a long arduous battle again."


On Iraq, Richardson said that "the Clinton Administration feels the
Secretary General's trip was a good one and we're hopeful in the days
ahead when it's tested...that it will be implemented effectively."


Undertaking a special diplomatic mission in February in an attempt to
avert military strikes on Iraq for its failure to cooperate with UN
weapons inspectors, Annan worked out a "memorandum of understanding"
with the Iraqi President that states Iraq's agreement to allow weapons
inspectors "immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access" to all
sites and called for the special procedures for investigating the
presidential sites.


The special procedures have been drawn up and the UN expects to begin
visiting the presidential sites in about two weeks. In the meantime,
inspections of other sites Iraq declared as "sensitive" and were the
subject of controversy in the past have been completed to the UN's
satisfaction in the past few days.


Richardson said that "so far we are pleased with the results" on the
weapons inspections.


Richardson also said that the "US view has been very clear -- that we
do not need to go to the Security Council in the event of taking
military action" if Baghdad does not continue to cooperate with the
UN.


"No decision has been made on military action and the Annan-Iraq
agreement so far has been working well so I don't anticipate that will
be a major topic of discussion" during Annan's Washington visit, the
US Ambassador said.