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U.S. Opposes UN Budget, Which Passes Assembly 142-1, Mr. Ban into the Dawn

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

UNITED NATIONS, December 22, 6:45 a.m. -- The UN's budget was adopted, 142 to 1, past 6 a.m. the Saturday before Christmas. After hours spent trying to convince the United States to reverse its vote against the budget, explained as a protest of the funding of a conference called anti-Israel, ultimately the U.S. still voted no. Afterwards Inner City Press asked General Assembly president Srgjan Kerim for his view of the vote. "With a little more flexibility," he said, consensus might have been possible. Moments later, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emerged from Mr. Kerim's office, in a tan overcoat. "I was supposed to say something," Mr. Ban told Inner City Press, but it got too late. "I will issue a statement tomorrow. Happy holiday," he said.

            The vote had hung in the balance between the 2 a.m. vote in committee and the final approval at 6 a.m. in the full General Assembly. The issue was to convince the U.S. task were a slew of UN top officials, from Controller Warren Sach to Mr. Ban's chief aide Kim Won-soo, all huddled in the second floor office of GA president Kerim. Outside U.S. Permanent Representative Zalmay Khalilzad paced. Inner City Press asked him, what about reported calls to South Africa, site of the initial Durban conference in 2001 which Israel denounced as anti-Semitic. "The vote is not final yet," he said. When Inner City Press said, "Maybe you'll vote yes," Khalilzad laughed. Could the strategy have been to get others to vote with the U.S. and oppose the budget? Later he was heard to say, "I can't wake Condi Rice for this." And the vote moved toward the dawn.

            Despite U.S. Ambassador Mark D. Wallace's broad-ranging explanation of negative vote -- that the budget was piecemeal and incomplete, and added too much money -- Amb. Khalilzad focused his comments exclusively on the Durban conference. In fact, he was heard in the hall musing about which position would be understood by journalists. It was, one wag said, a late night cause by U.S. editorial boards.

Messrs. Bush and Ban (months) before the vote, Durban II not shown

            Other countries' delegates were surprisingly understanding. While they had loudly groaned down in Committee when Wallace proposed a suspension before the vote, while waiting for GA action they relaxed. In the Delegate's Lounge, bottles of champagne were opened for outgoing chairman of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, Rajat Saha. After the vote, Japan's representative emphasized that the U.S. had been happy with the reduction of the budget, he said, to $4.17 billion. It was "unfortunate," he said, that the U.S. had voted against the budget based solely on the funding of Durban II. But was that the only reason? What of the critique of the process, and of the size of the budget?

            On the Procurement Task Force, Singapore's representative said the resolution requires an audit of, and accountability for, the PTF. The PTF has told reporters that it is not only targeting developing world officials and companies, but also, a journalist of record reports, Pacific Architects & Engineers, the Lockheed Martin unit given a no-bid $250 million contract by the UN for infrastructure in Darfur. We'll see if that's true. Happy holidays.

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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