"Weapons of Mass Deception"


The US vs. the UN

American ambassador seeks to scupper UN's global strategy with 750 amendments after just three weeks in the job

By David Usborne in New York
26 August 2005

America's controversial new ambassador to the United Nations is seeking to shred an agreement on strengthening the world body and fighting poverty intended to be the highlight of a 60th anniversary summit next month. In the extraordinary intervention, John Bolton has sought to roll back proposed UN commitments on aid to developing countries, combating global warming and nuclear disarmament.

Mr Bolton has demanded no fewer than 750 amendments to the blueprint restating the ideals of the international body, which was originally drafted by the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan.

The amendments are spelt out in a 32-page US version, first reported by the Washington Post and acquired yesterday by The Independent. The document is littered with deletions and exclusions. Most strikingly, the changes eliminate all specific reference to the so-called Millennium Development Goals, accepted by all countries at the last major UN summit in 2000, including the United States.

The Americans are also seeking virtually to remove all references to the Kyoto treaty and the battle against global warming. They are striking out mention of the disputed International Criminal Court and drawing a red line through any suggestion that the nuclear powers should dismantle their arsenals. Instead, the US is seeking to add emphasis to passages on fighting terrorism and spreading democracy.

Very quickly, Mr Bolton has given the answer to anyone still wondering whether his long and difficult journey to New York - President George Bush confirmed him to the post after the US Senate was unable to - would render him coy or cautious. Far from that, he seems intent on taking the UN by the collar and plainly saying to its face what America expects - and does not expect - from it.

To the dismay of many other delegations, the US has even scored out pledges that would have asked nations to "achieve the target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product for official development assistance by no later than 2015". All references to the date or the percentage level are gone in the Bolton version.

Passages that look forward to a larger role for the General Assembly are gone. Rejected also is a promise to create a standing military capacity for UN peacekeeping.

This show of contempt from Washington and its new envoy comes at a time when Mr Annan has been severely weakened by allegations of widespread corruption, fraud and nepotism. The White House is aware, for example, that Mr Annan himself could be further undermined when investigators into corruption in the oil-for-food programme in Iraq issue their final report, probably just days before the summit itself, due to be held from 14 to 16 September.

The move by MrBolton has thrown preparations for the summit into turmoil, prompting some to question whether there will be anything for the leaders to put their pens to in New York. "We can't be entirely sure there will be an agreement," one senior United Nations aide admitted last night. Failure to reach an agreement could embarrass Tony Blair, who is believed to have given broad backing to Mr Annan's original draft.

"It is not great news," said one Western diplomat of the American paper, which had been distributed only to a select group of UN ambassadors by yesterday. "What they are proposing is quite radical. If we start negotiating now the way the Americans want, it is going to make for a very difficult process."

Some UN insiders concede that at 29 pages the proposed text was probably far too long for many of the world's presidents and prime ministers to accept. They all also see that in its present form it would ask the US to promise to uphold treaties and conventions it has already rejected, including the Kyoto pact.

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Milton Frihetsson, 03:30


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