Bolton Pushes U.N. on Change as U.S. Objects to Draft Plan
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Bolton Pushes U.N. on Change as U.S. Objects to Draft Plan

New York Times | August 24, 2005
By WARREN HOGE

UNITED NATIONS - John R. Bolton, in his first public initiative as American ambassador, told envoys at the United Nations on Wednesday that time was running out on efforts to create institutional change, only days after the United States began privately pushing for major revisions to a draft of reforms that was already close to completion.

The new American approach recommends scrapping more than 400 passages in the 38-page draft prepared under the General Assembly president, Jean Ping of Gabon, that was being readied for a summit conference next month after nearly a year of intensive negotiations.

"Time is short," Mr. Bolton said in a letter to the 190 other United Nations ambassadors. He proposed immediate negotiations, starting with Mr. Ping's draft, and urged his fellow envoys to remain "open to alternative formats if they help us achieve consensus."

He said, "I plan on participating personally in this exercise and hope you will do the same."

More than 170 heads of state have confirmed plans to attend the conference, starting Sept. 14, to consider approval of what are seen as the most sweeping changes at the United Nations in its 60-year history.

The extent of the deletions sought by the Americans and the late hour brought complaints that the United States was sabotaging the effort to meet demands - many of them originating from Washington - that the institution reform itself to adjust to modern times and make its operations transparent and accountable.

"It would be very unfortunate and not in the interest of the United States or the international community for the new U.S. ambassador to barge in and undermine an important summit negotiation process," said William R. Pace, general secretary of the New York-based World Federalist Movement, which promotes a strong United Nations.

Richard A. Grenell, the spokesman for the United States mission, said, "The fact that we took this document seriously and put it through a thorough interagency process to evaluate its policy implications and then we commented on our ideas should be celebrated, not criticized."

Mr. Bolton, who was appointed by the White House three weeks ago while Congress was in recess after he failed to gain Senate approval, was championed by President Bush as the best man to bring about needed reform at the United Nations.

Among the changes under consideration are the substitution of the Human Rights Commission with a more powerful Human Rights Council that would no longer allow rights violators onto the panel; the creation of a Peacebuilding Commission to help countries emerging from conflict; the defining of terrorism to exclude its justification as a national resistance or liberation tool; and the empowerment of the international community to intervene in countries that fail to protect their people from genocide and ethnic cleansing.

The American objections center on parts of the document that approve measures and offices that the United States has opposed in other forums.

Among them are the International Criminal Court, which the United States says could hear frivolous actions against Americans abroad; the Kyoto Protocol on global warming; the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; and a pledge to devote 0.7 percent of gross national product to development.

The United States also objects to the document's stress on disarmament rather than nonproliferation and says it lacks clarity in assigning responsibility to a management oversight committee and fails to make clear the needs for developing nations to provide better governance so that aid can be properly directed to the needy.

In an interview, Mr. Ping said he was working to organize some 30 countries by Friday to take over the job of final refinements. He acknowledged that the draft might be too long currently to put before heads of state, but he warned that trimming it could be difficult, given the lengthy consideration of competing interests that led to the current language.

"Everything that can be reduced will be reduced," he said, "but it is not just a question of editing, it is a question of fundamental issues; we still have a persistent divergence of issues."

An official close to the General Assembly leadership, speaking anonymously because of his need to maintain the appearance of neutrality, said, "Most countries have been going along with the drafting exercise, although often with great reluctance, but the big risk now is that they will see this big shopping list as an opportunity to return with their own shopping lists and then the whole thing may unravel."


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