Election Section

Bush says U.N. dues should be paid

The Associated Press
Saturday May 12, 2001

WASHINGTON — President Bush criticized the House vote to withhold some overdue payments to the United Nations in a display of anger over the ouster of the United States from the U.N. Human Rights Commission. 

“I think we have made an agreement with the United Nations, an agreement that had been negotiated in good faith, and I think we ought to pay our dues,” Bush told a news conference several hours after meeting in the White House with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. 

The House voted 252-165 Thursday to pay $582 million in back dues but to withhold an additional $244 million until the United States is restored to the human rights panel. An initial $100 million back-dues payment occurred last year. 

Bush also criticized the U.S. ejection from the seat it has held since the panel’s creation in 1947, calling it “an outrageous decision.” 

“To me, it undermines the whole credibility of this commission to kick the United States off, one of the great bastions of human rights, and allow Sudan to be on,” he said. “And I think most reasonable people in the world see it that way.” 

Annan, back at U.N. headquarters in New York, said it was clear that both Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was also at the White House meeting, “are very supportive of the U.N.” 

“I had a chance to exchange some ideas about the U.N. dues and the decision in Congress to attach an amendment to the $244 million,” Annan said. “The president did indicate to me that he would also want to see the dues paid without any withholding.” 

The provision was written by Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., chairman of the International Relations Committee, and the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Tom Lantos of California, to forestall even tougher amendments aimed at blocking all the dues money. 

It was attached to the bill authorizing State Department programs for the 2002 and 2003 fiscal years.  

A House vote is expected next week. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is still writing its version. 

Powell urged lawmakers Thursday to show “a little more restraint,” telling a House subcommittee that “we should not now try to find a way to punish the U.N.” 

But that word never got to Hyde or Lantos, Hyde said after the vote. 

“The administration did not contact us on this bill,” he said. “It may be that they don’t have personnel in place, or maybe they didn’t care that much. I don’t know.” 

Hyde said the provision could change as the White House makes its opinion known during Senate action and the House-Senate conference resolving differences between the two chambers’ bills. 

“Passage by one house is the beginning of a long journey,” he said. 

On Thursday, Annan predicted the United States would get back its seat on the Human Rights Commission next year, “and I hope in the meantime they will work with other member states to get back on.” 

Despite the Bush administration’s opposition, GOP leaders championed the fight to punish the United Nations. House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, implored his colleagues to “send the world a message: America cares and America dares to stand up for any lost soul beleaguered and tortured in any part of this world at any time.” 

The most visible backers of the White House position were Democrats. 

“How can we expect the United Nations to improve its performance or to respect us if we go back on our word and refuse to pay our bills?” asked Rep. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia. 

After the vote, White House spokesman Sean McCormack said: “Our position is we’re committed to paying our arrears. To do otherwise now would undermine what we’re doing at the U.N. and our credibility as a negotiating partner.” 

In other amendments Thursday, the House: 

—Showed it was not opposed to all things United Nations by voting 225-193 to support a return to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and pay it $65 million. The United States left UNESCO in 1984, upset by management problems and what was perceived to be an anti-American bent. 

—Voted 282-137 to keep the United States out of the proposed International Criminal Court. Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, contended it could be used against U.S. military personnel overseas and, by endorsing the court, “we would be abandoning the sacred covenant between the Congress and our men and women in uniform.” 

Asked about that provision, Annan said: “I think that we know the position of Washington but I hope it is not immutable.”