Countries demand U.S. back payments
Countries that approved a major reduction in U.S. payments to the United Nations said Friday that Washington still hasn't held up its end of the deal by paying its arrears.
The so-called Group of 77 developing countries say the delay is threatening anew U.S. credibility here while also contributing to another bleak financial picture for the organization this year.
"What everybody expected from the American administration and the American delegation was just to show their good faith and pay," said Bagher Asadi, the deputy ambassador of Iran, which currently chairs the G77.
The General Assembly agreed in December to reduce the American share of the U.N. regular and peacekeeping budget to meet U.S. demands that tied payment of $582 million in U.S. arrears to U.N. reform. The Senate voted unanimously Feb. 7 to release the money. Action on a bill in the House, however, has not been so speedy.
More peacekeepers OK'd for Sierra Leone
The U.N. Security Council voted Friday to send more peacekeeping troops to Sierra Leone to help the government re-establish authority in the war-ravaged country.
The council unanimously passed a resolution to extend the U.N. mission by six months, until Sept. 30, and nearly double the number of peacekeepers to 17,500 from the current 9,500.
"This could well be a make-or-break period for the establishment of order in Sierra Leone," said British U.N. Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock, who takes over the council's presidency on Monday.
The council hopes the additional troops will help the government regain control of the country, including diamond-producing areas that have helped finance the rebels' struggle.
Chemical scare disrupts downtown
Police evacuated three floors of a Toronto office building and sealed off a major downtown street Friday after suspicious-looking gray powder spilled from a package. As in a similar incident last week, the powder turned out to be harmless.
Workers in the Ernst & Young Tower who may have come in contact with the powder had to undergo decontamination their clothes and bodies were showered with water. Fire trucks and other emergency vehicles filled Bay Street, in the heart of Toronto's financial district, jamming traffic.