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House Backs Withholding Dues to Spur U.N. Changes

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The vote was a chance for Congress to assert itself against an administration that has sought to strengthen its role among the branches of government. "It is not for the State Department or even the secretary of state to say when and how the resources of the American people will be spent," said Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.). Rep. Eric I. Cantor (R-Va.) said "bloated bureaucracy" and "anti-Israel bias" at the United Nations "goes against the grain of common sense in America."

The measure seeks to reorganize a vast, 60-year-old organization that has 45,000 staff members worldwide. In addition, it has more than 70,000 peacekeepers.

The bill requires the United States to withhold half of the dues assessed by the United Nations (currently $330 million out of a total budget of $1.5 billion) if the secretary of state cannot certify by Oct. 1, 2007, that 32 of 46 conditions in the bill have been met. The bill allows an additional year for the remaining 14 to be completed.

In addition to the dues, the United States will also pay about $2.5 billion this year in assistance to voluntary programs such as UNICEF. The House bill requires more programs to be moved into that category, because those programs seek funds from donor nations every year, giving Congress more control.

Richard C. Holbrooke, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during President Bill Clinton's second term, called it "the wrong legislation for the current moment" and pointed to the electoral assistance the United Nations has provided in Iraq.

Some U.N. observers warned that the vote could backfire, emboldening other countries to oppose U.S. initiatives to bring about change in the sprawling world body. John G. Ruggie, a former Annan adviser who is a professor at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, said the bill is "going to land like a bombshell" at the United Nations as it gears up for the September summit on U.N. reform.

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), who will be a key player in the Senate, issued a statement after the House bill passed saying that the United Nations needs "greater oversight, accountability and transparency" to "prevent another scandal like Oil-for-Food."

Lynch reported from the United Nations.


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