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Annan: U.N. finances in jeopardy after Congress fails to pay bills

November 14, 1997

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ The United Nations will be unable to reimburse member states for their participation in peacekeeping missions because of the United States’ failure to pay its debt to the world body, the secretary-general said Friday.

Congress ended its session Thursday in a standoff with the Clinton administration that resulted in no federal funds for the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund. Conservatives had demanded that Clinton forbid family planning funds for groups that lobby foreign governments to ease anti-abortions laws _ a trade-off Clinton refused.

The United States owes more than $1 billion to the United Nations and has refused to pay the bill until sweeping reforms are enacted. This week, the General Assembly endorsed substantial parts of a reform plan that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan drew up this year.

Washington’s failure to pay up means the United Nations will be unable to reimburse members for their participation in U.N. peacekeeping missions the United States helped organize, Annan told reporters.

Congress’ lack of action on the issue came during a week when the United Nations has been grappling with the crisis in Iraq _ playing a role ``indispensable to international peace and security as well as the vital national security interests of the United States,″ Annan said.

On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council issued a U.S. sponsored-resolution condemning Iraq’s expulsion of American weapons inspectors from Baghdad.

Annan said he would ask the General Assembly’s working group on finance to ``explore all possible options″ to ensure ``prompt payment by member states of their dues.″

``I am grateful to those in the Clinton Administration and Congress, as well as the public at large who worked tirelessly″ to try to ensure payment, Annan said.

``And I know that they, like us, are dismayed by the outcome,″ Annan said. ``At the same time, we must also take serious stock of our financial vulnerabilities.″

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