WASHINGTON -- At a time when President Bush is using the United Nations as the anchor for international sanctions against Iraq, the United States finds itself in the embarrassing position of being in substantial debt to the organization.
The president has asked Congress to approve a major contribution to the United Nations, which would reduce by more than half the debt that has built up over the years.
According to U.N. figures, the United States owes about $750 million.
Some of Washington's closest allies find the U.S. debt particularly annoying in light of the administration's appeals for more sharing of the financial burden of the Persian Gulf crisis.
In remarks before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, Secretary of State James A. Baker III said that as the world is faced with the first post-Cold War crisis, "We're the biggest deadbeats in paying our dues to the United Nations."