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Archive for Saturday, December 24, 2005

U.N. members reach budget deal

December 24, 2005

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— U.N. members agreed Friday night on a two-year budget that seriously restricts spending and applies pressure for management reform - a top priority for the United States and the European Union.

The General Assembly's budget committee was expected to approve the $3.8 billion plan, which includes a spending cap next year of $950 million.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton called the approval a victory for the United States. Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, whose country holds the EU presidency, said he wouldn't claim victory for the 25-member bloc but for the United Nations.

The agreement was reached after weeks of intense negotiations and a final round of meetings in the private office of General Assembly President Jan Eliasson. Ambassadors from wealthy and developing nations who had been at odds over the budget emerged together and announced that a deal had been reached.

The United States, Japan, Europe and other wealthy nations who pay about 85 percent of the U.N.'s budget joined forces to back the $950 million spending cap next year - which means the United Nations will likely run out of money in six months.

Their aim is to put pressure on all U.N. members to agree on management reforms by June, so that when the General Assembly is asked to approve another $950 million to cover U.N. operations for the rest of 2006 there will be sufficient progress for a "yes" vote.

The powerful Group of 77, which represents 132 mainly developing countries and China, had said it would only agree to a $1.35 billion cap on U.N. spending. Several key members including Egypt and India objected to any link between the new budget and management reform.

But Bolton said the link is implicit in the way the cap will operate.

"This evening the United States obtained something it had been striving for the last three months, which is a clear linkage between management reform and the budget process of the United Nations," he said.

Egypt's U.N. Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz said developing nations "are doing our best on the reform process ... but at the same time we don't want to be pressured by the budget."

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