USIS Washington 

21 September 1998


(Ambassador Burleigh cites U.S. priorities for 53rd UNGA) (1110)

By Judy Aita

USIA United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- Emphasizing the Clinton administration's "full
measure of support" for the United Nations, the chief U.S. delegate to
the 53rd General Assembly said that U.S. priorities include furthering
international cooperation against weapons proliferation, terrorism,
and international crime.

Ambassador A. Peter Burleigh, head of the U.S. Mission to the United
Nations, said, "We face in the 53rd session of the General Assembly a
crucial agenda of work, in a year of crucial significance for the
United States and its relationship with the world body, and at a time
when it is more imperative than ever for nations of the world to face
united the threats to our common economic, political, social, and
environmental security."

"The UN provides political and economic options benefiting Americans
in the form of a safer, more prosperous world, and at a savings
through collective cost-sharing rather than unilateral burdensharing,"
he said at a press conference September 18.

"We are convinced that by remaining engaged in the UN we promote vital
American leadership, and reflect the depth of quiet support felt for
the UN among the American people," Burleigh said.

The General Assembly began September 9 overshadowed by crisis
situations around world: the nuclear tests conducted by India and
Pakistan in May, terrorist bombings at U.S. embassies in Kenya and
Tanzania, growing tension between Iran and Afghanistan, Iraq's refusal
to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors, and continued fighting in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Citing the terrorist bombings in Nairobi and Tanzania and U.S. efforts
to bring to trial two Libyan suspects in the Pan Am bombing almost 10
years ago, Burleigh said "the U.S. and UN are engaged in a struggle
against international terrorism. Our weapon of choice is international

"Our policy is this: No deals with terrorists, bring terrorists to
justice, and pressure states that sponsor and harbor them," he said.

Burleigh noted that the United States remains committed to UN reform,
which has been a major U.S. concern for several years.

"Progress is occurring," the ambassador said. "The UN has cut its
budget and staff, established an inspector general's office, and
strengthened both peacekeeping and administrative operations. The
secretary general's reform initiatives, endorsed by the General
Assembly, are in large part the same as our own goals and will
substantially improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the UN

Ironically, during the 53rd UNGA session, the United States could lose
its voting rights unless the U.S. Congress appropriates the funds
requested by the Clinton administration for UN dues.

According to Article 19 of the UN Charter, any UN member that owes two
years' annual dues loses its voting rights in the assembly. As of
August 31, 1998, the United States owed the United Nations more than
$1,600 million. Of that, $572 million is for the regular budget;
$1,041 million for peacekeeping; and $2.8 million for the
international tribunals. In January the U.S. 1999 assessment of $297.7
million will be due.

"Article 19 does not affect our participation in the Security Council
or other UN bodies and it does not alter our joint agenda for the
coming UNGA session," the ambassador said. The US delegation will
pursue a "vigorous, active agenda," he stressed.

"We were disappointed this year that the legislation passed by
Congress to enable the U.S. to pay its UN arrears included provisions
on international family planning that were totally unacceptable to the
(Clinton) administration," Burleigh said.

"The president has repeatedly voiced his determination that the U.S.
must start repaying its UN arrears," the ambassador said.

"I don't think Congress wants to see a situation where the U.S. loses
its vote," he added. "We hope before adjourning in October Congress
will appropriate the funds. The president and secretary of state are
actively lobbying to make that happen."

President Clinton will be one of more than 30 heads of state or
government who will be addressing the assembly during its traditional
two-week general debate, which begins on September 21.

Burleigh pointed to the president's recent speech on global economic
challenges to the Council on Foreign Relations as significant for
U.S.-UN work as well.

Clinton said that "at this moment of financial turmoil, we are called
upon once again to lead -- to organize the forces of a committed world
to channel unruly energy into positive channels that advance our
interest, reinforce our values, and enhance our security...Now it is
time for us to rise to our responsibility, as America has so many
times before, so that we can redeem the promise of the global economy,
and strengthen our nation for the 21st Century," Burleigh recalled.

"President Clinton's words call (upon) us too, at the start of the
UNGA, to redeem the full promise and potential of the United Nations
for the world," the ambassador said.

The assembly will deal with a wide variety of issues on its 165-item
agenda -- including human rights, arms control and disarmament, the
environment, refugees, drug trafficking, and population.

U.S. goals for the UNGA include:

-- recommitting the international community to human rights during the
celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights;
-- convincing India and Pakistan to adhere to the Comprehensive Test
Ban Treaty and discouraging other potential nuclear weapons states
from conducting nuclear tests;
-- supporting the work of the Middle East peace negotiators to renew
momentum in the process and avoiding condemnatory resolutions of past
-- keeping the 1998 budget within the approved $2,533 million and
continuing more reforms; and
-- encouraging countries to meet reporting obligations under the UN
Register of Conventional Arms and the Wassenar Arrangement on
conventional and dual-use technology exports.

The Security Council also will take advantage of the large number of
top officials attending the debate to hold a ministerial-level meeting
on Africa September 24. This will continue its major initiative of
last year to focus attention on the African continent. This year the
council members, including Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, will
review Secretary General Kofi Annan's report on Africa entitled "The
Causes of Conflict and the Promotion of Durable Peace and Sustainable
Development in Africa" released in April.

In that report Annan stressed that the time is long past when the
responsibility for producing change in Africa can be shifted onto
others' shoulders. Both African nations and the international
community must "summon the political will" to end wars on the
continent, take good governance seriously, and invest in Africa's
resources, he said.