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Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

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At UN, Late Night Attempts to Change U.S. Budget Vote, Some Durban II Abstentions Surprise

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

UNITED NATIONS, December 22, 2:35 a.m. -- Even after the U.S. cast the lone vote against the UN budget in a 1 a.m. committee meeting, it and the UN held out hope of a face-saving change before the final vote in the General Assembly. U.S. Ambassador Khalilzad said such a change was possible; the U.S. delegation repaired from the committee meeting room. Calls were made to South Africa, seeking assurances that might allow a positive U.S. vote. But the calls went to voice mail.

            Beyond the main budget vote which left the U.S. isolated, 141 to 1, there was a vote on the U.N. Joint Staff Pension Fund, 140 to 1 (U.S.) with one abstaining: Canada. An underlying dispute involves attempts to address problems for U.N. retirees in Ecuador impacted by "dollarization" in that country. A closer analysis of the committee vote on Durban II finds generally that the European Union countries joined the U.S. is opposing. Abstaining rather than opposing were Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Also abstaining were New Zealand and Japan. Entirely absent was Israel, explained by it being the Sabbath.

Presidents of U.S. and General Assembly, calls to South Africa not shown

            Back in the committee, it turned into a love-fest, with the Indian delegate praising the outgoing Pakistani head of the Group of 77, and the UK delegate thanking the coordinator of the European Union. The widest-spread praise, however, was reserved for Rajat Saha of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, who will leave the post on December 31. Pakistan feted him, India welcomed him home. The U.S. representative said he expects to here great thing of Mr. Saha's future work. The U.S.'s delegate Ms. McClurg is taking over for Mr. Saha. Whether the ACABQ will henceforth be viewed as independent remains to be seen.

            Still on the podium as the clock passed two a.m. were Controller Warren Sach and Alicia Barcena. It ain't over, as they say, until the fat lady sings. Watch this site.

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

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