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UN Budget Deal Hits Durban Conference Hurdle, $4.6 Billion Blocked by $6.7 Million

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, December 21, 11:45 p.m. -- The vote on the UN budget that had been predicted for 10:45 p.m. has been postponed. The funding of the Durbin II conference has reared its head again as an issue. A U.S. representative told Inner City Press the "preparatory conference" would cost $6.7 million, and that it is a point of principle. A spokesman for the Japanese mission, on the other hand, said there are no budgetary implications of the conference, but that the fight is about how to mention the conference in the budget's text. The Group of 77, which caucused in the half-light of Conference Room 4 -- yes, as snarked by the U.S., rum bottles were in view, Havana Club -- wants the resolution to "endorse" the Durban conference. This language was confirmed to Inner City Press by Angolan Ambassador Ismael Gaspar Martins, who shook his head, "For this they keep us here." Even an American, emerging from Conference Room 5, said "there has to be a better way." Another said it was the G-77 being political: "there's a faulty PBI, that they would usually criticize, why are they trying to push it through?"  A Fifth Committee staffer told Inner City Press, perhaps facetiously, "Durban is easy." We'll see.

   An hour after the slated vote, G-77 members migrated to Conference Room 2 to caucus. Chef de Cabinet Vijay Nambiar stood schmoozing with Egypt's Ambassador. A senior GA staffer said there'd been a sighting of Nambiar's deputy Kim Won-soo, and that Mr. Ban was slated to arrive, but "later." Only victory has proud parents. Ban's bodyguards loitered by the Vienna cafe, standing at the ready. The vacuum cleaners began in Conference Room 5. There was no turning back.

  Down the hall came the American flotilla: Permanent Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, Ambassadors Alejandro Wolff and Mark Wallace, accompanied by Controller Warren Sach and the Secretary of the Fifth Committee. In the corner of Conference Room 3 they pow-wowed, as other delegates tried to get in.  They discussed the U.S. political ramifications of various ways of voting on the budget. Leave it to the experts, Khalilzad said. But as written, we cannot vote for the budget, he told Inner City Press, as he Googled past midnight.

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

  Because a number of Inner City Press' UN sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of the UN agencies and many of their staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540