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Press Review: Boutros-Ghali Defies U.S. Opposition

  • Don Hill



Prague, June 24 (RFE/RL) -- United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali commands both praise and condemnation for his five-year stewardship of the world organization. Now he is standing defiantly for reelection despite a U.S. Clinton Administration vow to block his candidacy. The Western press over the weekend examined his record and prospects.

The New York Times said in an editorial Sunday: "Boutros Boutros-Ghali has provided honorable and competent leadership as secretary general of the United Nations these last five years, but it is time for him to turn the job over to a more dynamic executive who can reform the organization and help restore its credibility with Americans. The Clinton administration, for those reasons and a less savory desire to deny Bob Dole a campaign issue, has informed Boutros-Ghali it will not support his candidacy for a second term."

Thomas W. Lippman and John M. Goshko offered this analysis at the weekend in The Washington Post: "In deciding to force out Boutros Boutros-Ghali as U.N. Secretary General, President Clinton has jettisoned a political liability that hung over his re-election campaign but risked picking a fight with the rest of the world. . . . The Clinton administration has no replacement candidate in mind, and had believed it would not be necessary to come up with one now because they expected Boutros-Ghali to accept a face-saving, one-year extension of his term. With the Egyptian diplomat's last-minute refusal to do that, the United States is in the position of telling everyone else it will not accept Boutros-Ghali, while offering no specific alternative of its own."

Boutros-Ghali writes a spirited defense of his record and an attack on U.S. actions in an article in the current edition of the U.S.-published Foreign Affairs Magazine. He says: "The secretary-general of the United Nations faces the critical task of maintaining the credibility of the organization, preventing its misuse, gaining support for it through its reform and seeking to find a basis for its financial stability. . . . My role as secretary-general is twofold. I endeavor to uphold each member state's right to request and receive U.N. assistance in a form suited to the specific situation. At the same time, I am obligated to draw attention to those needs that should take priority as determined by the principles and purposes of the United Nations.

Boutros-Ghali continued, "In relation to the scope and significance of the organization's activities, the United Nations is woefully underfunded for what it is called upon to do. In 1994 the regular budget was only 1,300 million dollars, with another 3,300 million dollars for peacekeeping activities. Yet many member states refuse to pay their assessed contributions fully and on time, leading to a chronic shortage of cash and placing a severe strain on the organization. As secretary-general I have taken every conceivable step to promote the adoption of methods that would lead to a more stable financial footing."

New York Times columnist A.M. Rosenthal wrote in The Times Saturday: "The U.S. decision to veto the re-election of the secretary general of the United Nations tells us a lot about the Clinton administration -- all bad -- and nothing true about Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the talented and brave Egyptian diplomat Washington is trying to eliminate. . . ."

Rosenthal wrote: "This story is not over. President Clinton can use the veto to override the 14 other members of the U.N. Security Council. But the Council then has to agree on another candidate. . . . The veto threat was not made because of international opinion but was dead against it. (His) qualifications make Boutros-Ghali the only influential secretary general aside from Dag Hammarskjold, killed in a Congo air crash in 1961. He is the most respected professional diplomat to come out of the Arab Mideast. . . . Without the veto threat, he would breeze through the election unopposed."

In the German newspaper, The Handelsblatt, Viola Herms Drath writes from Washington today: "President Clinton and his Republican challenger Robert Dole oppose a second term for. . . Boutros-Ghali. . . . Clinton even sent (U.S. Secretary of State) Warren Christopher to persuade the Secretary General to retire in dignity by November 1997. . . . What began as a promising 'Agenda for Peace, 'Boutros-Ghali's concepts and budgets, now requires a complete structural overhaul. . . . Heavy taxes in excess of 2,500 million dollars are owed to the United Nations by the United States and other countries. (U.S.) Senator Nancy Kassenbaum has accused the UN of hiding funding and employee information, along with other information on UN affairs. . . . Clinton believes that the financially bankrupt UN needs a new start. Insiders report possible challengers include Irish president Mary Robinson."

Alan Cowell wrote in Friday's New York Times: "Defying a U.S. threat to prevent him from serving a second term, U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali began canvassing European allies for support Thursday. He received no explicit promises of endorsement. But in France and Germany, his record of overseeing crises from Bosnia to Somalia drew praise, opening a split with Washington, which is portraying Boutros-Ghali as ill-suited to the task of streamlining the organization and managing it effectively. . . . The American action against Boutros-Ghali appeared to catch many Europeans off-guard. Some suggested that Washington's decision was a function of the presidential election campaign."
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