Thursday, April 20, 2006

U.S. Senator slams election of Iran to UN disarmament panel

A Republican senator who is a sharp critic of the United Nations is calling on the United States to withhold funds from the UN Disarmament Commission over Iran's election as vice chairman.

"The election of Iran as a vice-chair of the UN Disarmament Commission at the same time as Iran clandestinely pursues its own nuclear ambitions provides yet another example of the UN's inability to establish credible institutions to deal with global issues," Republican Senator Norm Coleman said in a statement Wednesday.

"Having the Iranians serve on this commission is like asking the fox to guard the hens, and will only ensure its ineffectiveness. "Iran says its program is peaceful, but the United States and dozens of other countries fear it wants the technology to make the core of nuclear warheads. READ MORE

Coleman, who represents Minnesota, urged the U.S. to redirect funds for the commission to humanitarian efforts.

The White House did not have an immediate comment Wednesday night. Neither the United Nations nor the Iranian embassy to the United Nations returned messages left Wednesday night. The commission is based in Geneva.

Coleman has been a longtime UN critic. His Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found abuses in the U.N.'s oil-for-food program, which was aimed at allowing the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein to sell oil for humanitarian goods.

Coleman has called on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to resign over the program.

Coleman has also introduced legislation with Republican Senator Richard Lugar, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to require the president to submit an annual report on UN 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.

"Clearly, the effort to implement reforms at the UN has not only stalled but utterly reversed course," Coleman said. "Consequently, I urge the administration to immediately begin withholding U.S. financial support for the U.N. Disarmament Commission to send an unmistakable signal that there will be serious consequences to the UN's failure to implement real reform."