06 March 1998
(Visit set for March 11 in Washington) (500) By Judy Aita USIA United Nations Correspondent United Nations -- Secretary General Kofi Annan will meet in Washington with President Clinton and senior administration officials on March 11, the United Nations announced March 6. Annan had originally scheduled a longer trip to Washington in February, but he canceled it when the crisis with Iraq escalated. Although the United States continues to maintain a substantial military presence in the Persian Gulf as a result of the dispute with Iraq over U.N. weapons inspections, the major topic of discussion between Annan and Clinton is expected to be large U.S. arrearages in its financial obligations to the United Nations. UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said it was not clear whether the Secretary General will meet with any members of Congress during this trip. However, he "plans a second visit to Washington after the Congressional Easter recess for the specific purpose of consulting with members of Congress," Eckhard said. As of March 6 only 42 of the UN's 185 member nations had fully paid their dues to the world organization, the UN said. A total of $3,100 million is owed the United Nations -- $1,200 million for the regular operating budget and $1,800 million for peacekeeping operations. Over $100 million is owed for the tribunals prosecuting war crimes for the former Yugoslav Republics and Rwanda. The United States owes the United Nations more than $1,704 million. Of that, $670.9 million is for the regular budget, $1,004 million for peacekeeping and $29.6 million is for the international tribunals. One of Annan's first acts after being sworn in as Secretary General in January, 1997, was a three-day trip to Washington to meet with Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and key members of Congress to explain his reform plans and to lobby for payment of the U.S. UN debt. Later in 1997, the Clinton Administration and Congress agreed on a legislative package that would have paid a major portion of what at that time was $1,000 million U.S. arrearages to the United Nations. Of this total, $100 million would have been paid immediately, with another $819 million paid over a three-year period, provided the United Nations met a series of reform benchmarks. However, even though the United Nations undertook major reforms at that time, Congress failed to pass this legislation, in part because of an unrelated anti-abortion amendment. The United States also wants to reduce its rate of assessment from the current level of 25 percent of the annual UN budget to 22 percent in two years and wants it capped at 20 percent at the end of three years. It was unsuccessful in getting this proposal adopted during the opening session of the 52nd General Assembly, which met from September to December, in part, U.S. diplomats said, because of the large U.S. debt to the UN.