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UN Budget "Can't Be Christmas Tree," Says US, Deal in Principle Predicted for December 21

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

UNITED NATIONS, December 18 -- "We can't load up the budget like a Christmas tree and pass everything," a U.S. diplomatic told Inner City Press on Tuesday outside the Security Council chamber. It was a week before Christmas, and already a day into the week when the budget was to be adopted. Inner City Press asked, can the budget be approved on that timetable? "I don't think we can move that quickly," was the answers. "There are a lot of questions that we have."

            While for the U.S. these questions include whether the Group of 77 and China will support the Procurement Task Force, for others the questions revolve around the UN's $250 million no-bid contract with U.S.-based Lockheed Martin, and the UN's proposed $185 million expenditure to build a new headquarters in Iraq. At Tuesday's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked if the latter, only introduced in the Fifth (budget) Committee on Monday, was slated to be adopted before the end of the week. That's the plan, the spokesman said.

            UN Controller Warren Sach on Tuesday briefed the Security Council's meeting on Iraq, in his International Advisory and Monitoring Board role. Afterwards, Inner City Press asked him about the budget process, whether it can be done by Friday. "It depends what you mean by when a budget is done," Sach answered. "Is it when there is an agreement in principle at the level of Permanent Representative? Is it consultation meetings in the  basement of the Fifth Committee?" He rattled off what he called the "elements... the Secretary-General's request, the add-ons, the PBI's (program budget implications) and the revised estimates." He said it would be hard to "aggregate" these by Friday, much less translate them into six languages. Inner City Press didn't ask, why then wait until three days before the vote to even introduce the Iraq funding proposal?

Warren Sach in the Fifth Committee, Christmas tree not shown

            Tuesday in the basement, Procurement staffers milled around outside the Fifth Committee's meeting. Inner City Press has interviewed a number of these sources. Later, Fifth Committee staffers told of the comments of Controller Sach and the U.S. diplomat jokes about the Christmas tree, and noted that budget resolutions are rarely translated into six languages. If you say so... Watch this space.

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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