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House of Representatives Votes To Withhold $244M in U.N. Dues

By Juliet Eilperin

The House voted Thursday to withhold $244 million in U.N. arrears next year, striking back at the world body for its decision to oust the United States from a seat on a U.N. human rights panel. The move came despite warnings from the Bush administration that it could scuttle a deal aimed at settling a long-running dispute over U.S. debts to the world body.

The 252-165 vote was for a proposal that would allow Congress to pay $582 million in back U.N. dues this year but suspend the next installment unless the United States regains its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission.

“This is a deliberate attempt to punish the United States for telling the truth when it comes to human rights violations around the globe,” said Rep. Heny Hyde (R-Ill.), the chairman of the House International Relations Committee who authored the proposal. “To our critics who would say we’re overreaching and overreacting, I would say to do anything less would be a repudiation of our values.”

The proposal, which drew the support of 189 Republicans and 62 Democrats, underscored the depth of anger on Capitol Hill in the wake of last week’s vote to remove the United States from its traditional seat on the human rights panel as well as the degree to which many lawmakers remain uneasy with America’s close ties to international organizations.

The United States was edged out of its position on the rights commission in a secret ballot among U.N. members that awarded Austria, France and Sweden the three seats reserved for Western countries.

The halt in payments, which came as the House took up the State Department’s authorization bill for the new fiscal year, threatens to unravel a deal struck in the final weeks of the Clinton administration. Under that agreement, the United States agreed to pay nearly $1 billion in arrears in exchange for a smaller share of the U.N.’s peacekeeping operations and overall budget.