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Friday, 21 January, 2000, 00:50 GMT
US senator berates UN

Jesse Helms Not impressed: US Senator Jesse Helms

One of the harshest American critics of the United Nations, Senator Jesse Helms, has said he wants a new beginning in relations between the US and the UN.

But in a belligerent speech to the Security Council - the first by a US senator - Mr Helms warned the UN not to try to impose its authority on the American people.

He said that might risk an eventual withdrawal from the UN by the United States.

Mr Helms, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations committee, is the co-author of legislation that set conditions on the payment of the United States' arrears to the United Nations and capped the amount at $926m.

New beginnings

Jesse Helms UN chief Kofi Annan wasn't present to hear Mr Helms' address
The UN estimates that the US owes it around $1.5bn.

Mr Helms, who has previously branded UN officials as "dysfunctional" and "cry babies," said Americans felt "a lack of gratitude" from the world organisation.

But he tempered his criticism by proposing a new spirit of co-operation with the world body and suggested formal, annual visits between UN members and US lawmakers.

"If we are to have a new beginning, we must endeavour to understand each other better," Mr Helms said.

He added: "The money we spend on the UN is not charity.

A United Nations that seeks to impose its presumed authority on the American people without their consent begs for confrontation and eventual US withdrawal
Jesse Helms

"To the contrary, it is an investment - an investment from which the American people rightly expect a return."

Congress last year voted to pay $926m in back US dues over three years.

The United States paid a $100m instalment late last year.


But to get the rest, the United Nations must meet about a dozen conditions drafted by Mr Helms and Senator Joseph Biden.

The conditions include a reduction the US share of the UN peacekeeping budget from the current 31% to 25% and of the regular budget from 25% to 22%.

"A United Nations that seeks to impose its presumed authority on the American people without their consent begs for confrontation, and - I want to be candid - eventual US withdrawal," Mr Helms said.

The senator also accused the General Assembly of an anti-American bias.

"The American people hear all this, they resent it. And they have grown increasingly frustrated with what they feel is a lack of gratitude," he said.

Cool reception

It was something
Security Council President Richard Holbrooke on Mr Helms' speech
Delegates reacted coolly.

American tardiness in meeting its payments and Mr Helms' insistence on a lower US contribution "has hindered and not helped" peacekeeping efforts, said Jeremy Greenstock, the British envoy.

Sergey Lavrov, Russia's representative, complained that the US failed to abide by terms of a UN budget that all members approved.

"All the other members of the United Nations expected the United States to keep its word," he said.

The Chinese ambassador, Qin Huasun, said the United Nations "is not perfect ... but it is irreplaceable and it is there for everyone to see."


Mr Helms, who was also a sponsor of the Helms-Burton Act that tightened the US economic embargo on Cuba, also told the Security Council it had a "mixed record" in recent conflicts.

While it "performed admirably" in ending Iraqi aggression against Kuwait in 1990-91, in the more recent case of Kosovo, "it was paralysed," he said.

"The UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia was a disaster, and its failure to protect the Bosnian people from Serb genocide is well documented," he added.

Mr Helms was invited to speak by US Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who holds the rotating council chairmanship.

Asked for his analysis of Mr Helms' performance, Mr Holbrooke replied: "It was something."

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