After months of wrangling, the administration and key senators reached tentative agreement on a plan for the United States to repay $819 million in back debts to the United Nations in exchange for U.N. reform, officials said Wednesday.
Under the plan, the money will be disbursed over a three-year period but only if the United Nations moves to cut both its personnel rolls and its budget.
The United Nations also must accept the $819 million as full repayment of U.S. arrears, even though the organization contends the actual figure is $1.3 billion. The $819 million estimate was tabulated by congressional experts and is $200 million below the administration’s tally.
Conservative lawmakers wanted the debt to be repaid over five years but acquiesced in the administration’s insistence on a three-year timetable.
The agreement also would shrink the U.S. contribution to U.N. operations from 25 percent to 20 per cent by 2000. U.N. members are expected to resist this change, because it means their contributions would have to go up.
In addition, the agreement would cut the foreign aid of nations whose U.N. diplomats have not paid their parking fines. The aid would be reduced by 110 percent of the outstanding fines.
The deal also includes reorganization of the State Department. It abolishes the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in 15 months and the U.S. Information Agency by Oct. 1, 1999, and increases State Department oversight of the nation’s foreign aid agency, the Agency for International Development.
The House voted 422-0 on Wednesday to amend a State Department authorization bill to include the reorganization plan.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee members and administration officials worked out details of the U.N. reform plan late Tuesday.
On Wednesday, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said progress was made but added: “Much more work needs to be done before anyone can declare victory.” Other officials and Senate sources said broad outlines of the agreement were in place.
Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., a committee member, said the agreement had flaws and that he planned to introduce amendments Thursday to correct them. He said the debts to the U.N. are a contractual obligation of the United States and should not be subject to conditions.
He added that two-thirds of the debt is not owed to the U.N. but to allies for peacekeeping operations. As examples, he said the United States owes France $60.1 million, Great Britain $41 million and the Netherlands $21.3 million.
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