Administration Opposes

Withholding U.N. Dues

The administration strongly opposes moves by Congress to slash dues to the United Nations and is optimistic that the scandal-hit body will implement tough changes, a top U.S. official said yesterday.

R. Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs, urged senators not to follow the House, which voted last month to cut U.S. dues by as much as half if the United Nations did not enact changes.

"We don't need our feet held to the fire," Burns said of moves to link U.S. contributions to restructuring the world body.

"It is vital that the U.S. lead at the United Nations, that we have faith in the U.N., pay our dues, promote reform and contribute to strengthen the U.N.," he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The United Nations has been rocked by a series of scandals in recent years, including sex abuse by peacekeepers and allegations of corruption in the oil-for-food scandal.

Burns said he hopes that the United Nations will agree to a series of far-reaching changes by September.

Guantanamo Prisoners

On Hunger Strike

Fifty-two prisoners at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have declared they are on a hunger strike, military officials said.

They have refused at least nine meals over the past three days, officials said.

"Indications are that this is a temporary effort by some detainees to protest their continued detention," the military command at the prison for suspected terrorists said in a statement.

The detainees refusing meals have been given intravenous hydration, Gatorade, water and the nutritional supplement Ensure, the statement says. Some may be admitted to a hospital.

The Pentagon's version of the strike contrasted somewhat from the accounts of two Afghans released from the facility earlier this week. On Wednesday, they said that more than 180 Afghans were on a hunger strike to protest alleged mistreatment at the facility.

White House Against

Detainee-Treatment Bill

The White House threatened yesterday to veto a Senate bill for $442 billion in next year's defense programs if it moves to regulate the Pentagon's treatment of detainees or sets up a commission to investigate operations at military prisons at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere. The Bush administration, under fire for the indefinite detention of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay and questions over whether its policies led to abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, put lawmakers on notice that it did not want them legislating on the matter. In a statement, the White House said such amendments would "interfere with the protection of Americans from terrorism by diverting resources from the war."

It said that if "legislation is presented that would restrict the president's authority to protect Americans effectively from terrorist attack and bring terrorists to justice," the bill could be vetoed.

-- From News Services