U.n. Promises To Live Within Means

Annan Plan: Administration Finds A Tough Sell With Republicans In Congress.

April 26, 1997

UNITED NATIONS Secretary-General Kofi Annan's plan to reduce his secretariat's staffing by 1,000 from 10,000, trim $123 million from a two-year budget and merge three economic development agencies into one, sounds like what Republicans in Congress demand.

But they aren't so sure. They want real paring and not just accounting games. Skeptical reactions from rank and file are a holding pattern while the congressional leadership negotiates with the administration.

It is becoming clear that President Clinton's second-term diplomatic team consists of ambassadors to Congress. The administration seeks an overdue accommodation to remove isolationist shackles from foreign policy.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has clearly won the respect of Sen. Jesse Helms, the formidable chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. The U.S. delegate to the U.N., former Rep. Bill Richardson, sailed through the confirmation process with ease and knows how to talk to his former colleagues.

It is their job to sell the Annan plan to the congressional leadership. A second plan is due by July for affiliated U.N. agencies, which Mr. Annan does not control. He will be selling this plan to the 185 U.N. members that separately control those agencies.

Mr. Richardson rightly tells his former colleagues that the U.S. cannot influence other nations as it should while withholding about $1.3 billion in overdue membership dues and peace-keeping assessments. The Clinton administration seeks to pay the arrears, though some phasing might appease Republican skepticism. The ambassador says he needs this to sell other U.N. members on a reduction of the U.S. share of costs from a current 31 percent of peace-keeping to 25 percent, and from 25 percent of dues to 20 percent. Some lawmakers want to see that first.

The sooner this impasse can be overcome, the sooner Mr. Richardson can wield the clout at the U.N. that the U.S. should have. It's part of a grand bargain the administration is seeking with the Republican Congress that would settle other foreign policy issues as well. The first part, a credible U.N. slimming regimen, is in place, providing the will exists to follow through with honest implementation.

Pub Date: 4/26/97

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