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Gramm-Rudman Seen Forcing Cut in U.S. Share of U.N. Budget

Times Staff Writer

The U.S. reduction in its share of the U.N. budget will be larger than the 20% rollback enacted last year unless Congress exempts the world organization from the Gramm-Rudman deficit reduction law, a congressional aide warned a stunned United Nations Assn. conference here Friday.

Congress passed an amendment to the U.N. budget authorization last year that, except under certain circumstances, would drop Washington’s share of the total U.N. budget to 20% from the current 25% with the Oct. 1 start of the 1987 fiscal year. But David Lonie, a Republican staff member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the conference that Gramm-Rudman already limits U.S. dues to 17% of the U.N. budget for fiscal 1986 and reduces that to less than 15% in fiscal 1987.

The total annual budget of the United Nations is about $820 million, according to a U.N. statement. The drop in the American share from 25% to 15% would reduce the U.S. cost from $205 million to $123 million.

While the Supreme Court may yet strike down Gramm-Rudman as unconstitutional or Congress may grant an exception for obligations incurred under treaties, the betting on Capitol Hill is that the radical cuts, aimed at helping to balance the federal budget, will be maintained across the board.

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House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Dante B. Fascell (D-Fla.), addressing the conference at a luncheon, declared that there will be no exceptions for treaty obligations or any other special causes. Later, he told reporters that hopes for an exemption for the U.N. budget are “pie in the sky--the money is just not there.”

Lonie explained that Gramm-Rudman overrides all other legislation, forcing the government to reduce spending in all areas.

Aid Program Being ‘Gutted’

“It’s not just the United Nations,” he said, “The whole foreign aid program is being gutted and Radio Free Europe could be off the air by August.”

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He said Gramm-Rudman removed a “carrot” in last year’s amendment cutting the U.N. budget authorization. That amendment, proposed by Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R-Kan.), proposed that a 20% cut would take effect unless the United Nations made progress toward weighted voting on budget matters in the General Assembly. Although a change in voting procedures would require a change in the U.N. Charter--a prospect considered unlikely because it could threaten the big powers’ Security Council veto rights--Lonie said Congress was prepared to accept other administrative reforms in the United Nations as compliance with the spirit of the Kassebaum amendment.

Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, Stephen Lewis, told the conference that Western nations are unanimous in hoping that Washington will keep its current level of participation in the United Nations.

“In large ways, like the U.S. aid in the African famine, the United States is indispensable for the United Nations,” Lewis said. “For God’s sake, stick with us.”

Fascell agreed that the organization is also indispensable for the United States even if many Americans do not share this view.

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“I don’t believe this Administration is out to kill the United Nations,” he said. “But I do believe there are some people in the government, not high ranking, who think it’s a waste of money.”


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