The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 63.0°F | Partly Cloudy

International Leaders Criticize $1B U.S.Debt to United Nations

By John M. Gshko
The Washington Post

A parade of speakers, including the leaders of such close American allies as Britain and France, used the 50th anniversary summit meeting of the United Nations Monday to criticize the United States sharply for failing to pay the $1.3 billion it owes the world body.

No one mentioned the United States by name. But there was no doubt about the nation to which French President Jacques Chirac, British Prime Minister John Major and others were referring. Their remarks continued the international criticism that has grown louder and more insistent as Congress continues to shy away from appropriating funds necessary to settle U.S. debts.

"It is not acceptable that many countries, including the foremost among them, should let heir arrears pile up, thereby leading to bankruptcy in an organization to which all the world's heads of state and government have come in an unprecedented event, to affirm that it is irreplaceable on this, its anniversary day," Chirac said.

"It is not sustainable for member states to enjoy representation without taxation," Major added, picking up a phrase that has gained wide currency in U.N. circles after it first was used in a speech here last month by British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind.

In his keynote address opening the celebration on Monday, President Clinton said he is working with Congress to get the payments made. But he did not elaborate, and the delinquency is becoming a mounting embarrassment to the Clinton administration and its claims to world leadership.

In his Monday speech, Clinton appealed for international cooperation to fight terrorism and other cross-border crime such as the drug trafficking of Colombia's notorious Cali cartel. But, judging by the responses from other countries' leaders, Clinton's attempt to make these matters a new set of priorities for the United Nations has been virtually ignored.

Instead, the topics mentioned most frequently in other speeches have been disarmament, demands by Third World countries for greater power in U.N. affairs and for more development aid from industrial nations, and fears that the U.N. financial crisis could thwart realization of these goals.

That fear has been echoed widely here by countries from every part of the world, both rich and poor. It was one of the principal topics at a news conference held on behalf of the 15-nation European Union by Spain's Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez, the current president of the EU.