UN chief urges debtors to pay up

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THE UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, yesterday released figures showing the gloomy state of United Nations finances, and appealed, yet again, for those members behind with their dues to pay up.

Mr Boutros-Ghali said the UN, owed more than dollars 2bn (pounds 1.3bn) in unpaid dues, could be broke in about a month if the dues are not paid.

In letters to government heads or foreign ministers, he said: 'I should emphasise that the unprecedented demands on the United Nations, the shortfall in contributions from so many member states and the total depletion of the organisation's financial reserves render the present situation the most critical it has ever faced.' Unless substantial payments were received within the next month, it would 'not be possible to finance new undertakings and even existing operations will be in jeopardy,' he warned.

In a letter to those members of the Security Council who are up to date with their contributions - Britain, France and New Zealand - the Secretary-General said the financial situation was so desperate that the UN would 'soon be prevented from discharging its responsibilities in the field of international peace and security'. He appealed to the three countries to urge their Council colleagues to dip into their coffers. The other 12 members of the council include the United States.

'While member states are entrusting the United Nations with new and complex mandates, the organisation continues to face a grave shortage of cash,' Mr Boutros-Ghali wrote. He said the UN's total cash reserves were some dollars 380m as against monthly expenses of about dollars 310m. Outstanding contributions to the regular budget and to peace-keeping operations are dollars 848m and dollars 1.2bn respectively.

Despite several measures to cut expenses, there is no longer 'any room for manoeuvre', Mr Boutros-Ghali said. Those governments contributing troops are owed dollars 360m, and it is increasingly difficult to make timely payments to contractors who provide goods and services for peace-keeping operations, he added.

According to the latest available figures, as of 15 July the US was the biggest debtor, owing about dollars 836m - more than dollars 517m towards the regular budget for 1993 and previous years, and some dollars 318m for peace-keeping.

Next came Russia, owing nearly dollars 509m, followed by Japan, which had fully paid its regular dues but still owed about dollars 99m for peace-keeping.

(Photograph omitted)