Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Senator Coleman Presses For United Nations Reform

Sen. Norm Coleman pressed United Nations officials on reform and Darfur as he participated as a congressional delegate to the world body. "I want to see us get rid of unnecessary U.N. mandates and see money spent on helping the poor," Coleman, R-Minn., said in a telephone interview from New York. "I see my role as a voice for reform." The White House named Coleman and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., as congressional delegates to the U.N. Coleman is one of the U.N.'s harshest critics, and has urged Secretary General Kofi Annan to resign because of abuses in the U.N. oil-for-food program. Coleman said he offered to meet with Annan but a meeting couldn't be arranged. "He's on his way out," Coleman said. "I'm looking forward to meeting with the next one." Annan's second five-year term ends on Dec. 31.Coleman did meet with the president of the U.N. General Assembly, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa. In that meeting, Coleman said, he pressed for reform and for more aggressive action on Darfur, where at least 200,000 people have died and more than 2 million people have been displaced. "We've got to push hard," Coleman said, referring to the situation in Darfur. Last month, the Security Council passed a resolution that would give the United Nations peacekeeping force in Sudan's south control over a peacekeeping operation in Darfur now run by the African Union. But Sudan has so far refused to give its consent. On the reform issue, Coleman said, he's pushing for greater transparency and better access to documents. "The U.N. has not cleaned up its act, and that seriously undermines its credibility," he said. Later Coleman met with U.S. Ambassador John Bolton. Coleman is returning to Washington on Wednesday for Senate votes, then coming back to the U.N. the same day, when he hopes to meet with French and Chinese officials. Coleman has introduced legislation with Indiana Republican Richard Lugar, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to require the president to submit an annual report on U.N. reform to Congress. The bill would allow the president to withhold 50 percent of U.S. contributions to the U.N. if sufficient reforms have not been made.