Annan says US should not punish UN after losing rights commission seat

Annan says US should not punish UN after losing rights commission seat

Secretary-General Kofi Annan today expressed the hope that the United States would regain the seat it recently lost on the United Nations Human Rights Commission, but stressed that in the meantime the US should not punish the Organization by placing conditions on the payment of outstanding dues.

Mr. Annan made his remarks at UN Headquarters in New York in response to questions from the press about today's decision by the US House of Representatives to condition arrears payments to the UN on regaining the seat that the United States had lost last week for the first time since the inception of the Geneva-based Commission.

"I hope the dust will settle and that we will look forward to the future," the Secretary-General said. "I have no doubt that next year the US will be back on the Commission, and I hope in the meantime they will work with other Member States to get back on."

Mr. Annan also stressed that he thought attaching amendments to UN dues was not the right way to go, noting that he had "always maintained as Secretary-General that Member States should pay their dues in full and on time and without condition." He expressed satisfaction that the House decision did not affect the $582 million arrears payment that had been agreed upon last December, largely through the work of former US Ambassador to the UN, Richard Holbrooke. If that had happened, he noted, it would have been seen by other UN Member States as a "breach of faith."

The Secretary-General said he hoped that at the end of the day, the US would find a way of removing the conditions from the $244 million payment as well. The solution lay not in punishing the UN, but in working with the other Member States and looking forward.

Responding to questions, Mr. Annan said that his scheduled meeting tomorrow with US President George Bush would focus on HIV/AIDS, although there might be an opportunity to discuss other topics, such as the crisis in the Middle East.

"We are all working very hard to get the parties to understand that they have to pull back from the precipice and sit down together to resolve this issue," Mr. Annan said, referring to the Middle East. "It is only through dialogue that they can get a ceasefire, that the economic conditions can be eased, and they will find their way to a discussion of final settlement based on [Security Council resolutions] 338 and 242."