Saturday, 8 January 2011

US Republicans to push UN overhaul

WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama's Republican foes next week will open a fresh quest for sweeping changes at the United Nations on everything from peacekeeping to nuclear safeguards, a key lawmaker said Friday.

Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the new House Foreign Affairs Committee chair, announced she would hold a Wednesday briefing entitled "The United Nations: Urgent Problems that Need Congressional Action."

Her office said the Florida lawmaker planned to push legislation calling for broad changes at the world body, a frequent target of US conservatives who charge it is bloated, inefficient, and corrupt.

Ros-Lehtinen's bill calls for the United States to shun the UN Human Rights Council and to withhold an amount of UN dues equal to what it would contribute to the panel until the US State Department certifies that the council does not include countries regarded by Washington as major human rights abusers.

The measure, which would also have to pass the Senate, also calls for restrictions on US contributions to the UN nuclear watchdog to ensure that countries like Iran and Syria do not receive nuclear-related assistance as long as they are on a US list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Ros-Lehtinen's proposal would also call for sweeping changes in the way the UN peacekeeping efforts are planned, managed, run and assessed, according to a summary from her office.

The bill would create a US inspector general to track how US dues to the United Nations are used, and would withhold US monies from UN entities that do not cooperate with such oversight.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, has been given cabinet level ranking by President Barack Obama, who has set out to improve relations with the United Nations.

"The US has consistently pressed the issue of efficiency and accountability at the UN, pushing for a focus on results," Mark Kornblau, spokesman for the US mission at the United Nations said of the criticism.

"Simply, we want Congress to resume its traditional role as an oversight body and a check on the United Nations and other international organizations," commented Brett Schaefer, one of the experts due to take part in the briefing.

"Otherwise, the default inclinations of our diplomats is simply to go along to get along and not press for the reforms that are desperately needed," said Schaefer, a scholar at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.

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