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General Assembly appoints Annan secretary-general

December 17, 1996

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ The General Assembly appointed Kofi Annan its new chief Tuesday, and the Ghanaian pledged to work for a leaner United Nations while urging members not to allow it to perish from ``indifference, inattention or financial starvation.″

The 185-member General Assembly formally approved the 58-year-old U.N. veteran to succeed Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who was vetoed for a second term by the United States. Washington claimed the Egyptian diplomat was sluggish in pressing for U.N. reform.

Annan, who was chosen Friday by the 15-member Security Council, took his oath of office Tuesday, although his five-year term does not begin until Jan. 1.

During a 90-minute ceremony, the General Assembly also thanked Boutros-Ghali, who received a standing ovation after a farewell speech in which he blamed member states, including Washington, for creating a financial crisis that has slowed reform.

Mindful of Washington’s demand for reform, Annan urged the United Nations to ``make change our ally, not our enemy ... to recognize it as a necessity not an imposition.″

``If all of us in this hall together ... can make this organization leaner, more efficient and more effective, more responsive to the wishes and needs of its members and more realistic in its goals and commitments, then and only then will we serve both this organization’s high purpose and the planet’s best interests,″ Annan said.

``But above all, do not let this indispensable, irreplaceable institution wither, languish or perish as a result of member state indifference, inattention or financial starvation.″

Annan, head of U.N. peacekeeping and a veteran U.N. insider, was chosen Friday after France pulled its opposition. France had strongly supported Boutros-Ghali for a second term, then endorsed Foreign Minister Amara Essy of the Ivory Coast in hopes of appointing a secretary-general from French-speaking Africa.

During his speech, Annan, a descendant of African tribal chiefs, also pledged to heal the friction caused by the United States’ unilateral campaign against Boutros-Ghali, which began in July.

The Clinton Administration said the Republican-controlled Congress was unlikely to pay the $1.4 billion the United States owes in back dues without a change in U.N. leadership.

The United States’ failure to pay its dues has thrown the organization into a financial crisis that threatens its existence.

In Washington, Princeton Lyman, acting assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs, told reporters the Clinton administration is preparing a plan to pay its back dues. But the initial reaction from Capitol Hill suggested there may be some resistance.

Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., chairman of the House International Relations subcommittee that deals with the United Nations, said he would oppose any payback plan until the world body recognizes that the United States makes many contributions for which it receives no credit.

In addition, Smith said he and other conservative lawmakers resent the U.N.’s population control agenda that ``tries to tell countries in Africa and Central and South America that they have too many people.″

During his farewell address Tuesday, Boutros-Ghali said the financial crisis itself was blocking meaningful change and added that ``extensive reform of the United Nations can only emerge from a consensus among member states.″

Boutros-Ghali also offered the following advice to Annan and future secretaries-general: protect your independence.

``The holder of this office must never be seen as acting out of fear of, or in an attempt to curry favor with, one state or group of states,″ he said. ``Should that happen, all prospects for the United Nations would be lost.″

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