Britain rebukes US over UN debt

DAVID USBORNE

New York

Britain is seeking ways to punish countries which owe money to the UN, including the prime offender, the United States, which could lose its vote in the General Assembly.

Closed-door debate on tough penalties for late-payers has been under way in New York for several months, with Britain and Sweden taking the lead. Most controversial is a proposal to reactivate a long-forgotten article of the UN Charter which stipulates that any country two years in arrears should lose its assembly voting rights.

A hint that such a fate could befall the US was delivered by the Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, in a speech to the assembly this week. Neatly reversing the slogan employed against Britain by American revolutionaries 200 years ago, he said: "Perhaps an appropriate policy could best be entitled 'no representation without taxation'".

Mr Rifkind expressed his dismay about the American debt - now standing at over $1.1bn - to the Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, in New York this week. Thirty other countries are seriously behind in payments.

A British official wondered aloud yesterday whether the US could be happy "in the company of this group that includes Iraq and Libya".

With a total of $3.6bn owing, the UN is facing its worst ever cash shortage. Money is being diverted from peace-keeping just to keep the lights on. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the UN Secretary-General, has even suggested seeking a loan from the World Bank.

American arrears date back to the Reagan presidency. The backlog was reduced by President Bush, but during the Clinton administration a Congress deeply hostile to the UN has withheld or cut back payments, for a mixture of political and financial reasons.

British sources say the US could fall foul of the two-year arrears rule soon after the end of this year.

"The article is not an immediate threat for the Americans, but it is still there and we are suggesting it should be tightened up", the official said.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in