US envoy urges Trump not to cut UN funding and lose clout

AP News
Posted: Jan 13, 2017 5:55 PM
US envoy urges Trump not to cut UN funding and lose clout

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power urged the Trump administration on Friday not to cut funding to the United Nations, warning that this would be detrimental to U.S. interests and benefit countries like China and Russia.

"We lead the world, in part, by leading at the United Nations," Power stressed at her final press conference before leaving the U.S. Mission on Jan. 20 when Barack Obama's presidency ends and Donald Trump is inaugurated as president.

Supporters of Israel in the U.S. Congress have introduced a number of bills to cut off U.N. funding to protest Obama's decision to allow the adoption of a Security Council resolution in December condemning Israel's construction of settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want for their future state.

The United States pays 22 percent of the U.N.'s regular operating budget and 25 percent of the budget for its 16 far-flung peacekeeping missions where over 100,000 troops and police are deployed.

"We are in the room as a credible leader within the U.N., which would become extremely hard to do if we were not contributing our share of funding," Power said.

She said a funding cut would leave the United States with its hands tied behind its back and strip the U.N. of resources to support conflict mediation or humanitarian operations or new Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' "major effort" to resolve conflicts in Cyprus and South Sudan.

"This would be extremely detrimental to U.S. interests," she said, and would also penalize nations trying to advance international peace and security, development, human rights and dignity.

"For there to be less of that work done in the world is going to make for a messy world," Power warned.

"And the only beneficiaries of our pullback of funding from the U.N. would be countries like China and Russia who ... certainly in some debates would greatly prefer that the United States was fighting and advocating here and pushing policies with less standing," she said.

Power also warned that if there is less U.S. leadership other countries will step in to fill the void, including nations that don't share America's approach to fighting terrorism, promoting human rights and respecting international borders. She didn't give any names, but was clearly alluding to Russia.

Israel also would not benefit, she said, because U.S. leadership has played an important role in securing changes to improve the integration of its U.N. mission into the United Nations. She cited the U.N. decision to include Yom Kippur, the holiest day for Jews, as one of six holidays that U.N. staff can take, the Israeli ambassador chairing a U.N. committee for the first time, and the holding a major conference on anti-Semitism.

Looking back on her 3 1/2 years as U.S. ambassador, Power said "the U.N. system is flawed" and has "a bloated bureaucracy that has accreted bad habits over 71 years."

Nonetheless, she said, "the United States needs the U.N."

On key nuclear issues, Power said the Trump administration should focus on implementing and enforcing "the most intense and aggressive set of sanctions that we've seen at the Security Council in a generation" against North Korea.

"The effect of those sanctions will take time to kick in in full, and have the desired effects, but we're already seeing significant reductions in the acquisition of hard currency by the North Korean regime" which it uses to fund its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, she said.

Power also stressed the importance of preserving the nuclear deal with Iran which Trump has repeatedly criticized though he has not said what he plans to do about it once in office.

She said it's extremely important to the United States that a country that threatens Israel and the U.S., supports "terrorist groups" like Hezbollah, and continues to destabilize Syria, Yemen and other countries "does not have nuclear weapons."

Power said the six-party nuclear agreement is working, and it has provided a channel of communications between Iran and the U.S., who don't have diplomatic relations.