Albright: U.S. Does Its Part

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright Friday stepped between the United Nations Secretary-General and a United States Senator in a squabble over America's role in peacekeeping.

U.N. head Kofi Annan Thursday sharply criticized Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H.,for single-handedly blocking funds for U.N. peacekeeping.

Last week, Gregg placed a hold on $368 million owed by the United States for U.N. peacekeeping in Congo, Kosovo, East Timor and Sierra Leone. "Let me say it is not helpful," Annan said of Gregg's actions. Annan said he had no plans to meet with Gregg during his visit to Washington.

Friday, Judd agreed to release $40 million for the mission in Kosovo and is working with America's U.N. envoy, Richard Holbrooke, on an agreement to free a further $260 million.

Appearing on Friday’s CBS News Early Show, Albright did not specifically address Annan’s allegations or Gregg’s actions.

But she did rebuff allegations the U.S. is neglecting its peacekeeping obligations.

"I think that we are doing what needs to be done. We have peacekeepers all over the world," the secretary said. "All we're saying is we're not going to have combat troops on the ground."

"But we are assisting in a number of different ways in terms of the things that we're very good at: communications, strategic lift. That is what we're in the process of discussing with our friends involved in this," Albright said.

Annan, speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday, challenged Gregg to come up with peace plans of his own if he disagrees with U.N. efforts.

Gregg's spokesperson did not respond to Annan’s critique, but Friday said negotiations to resolve the funding dispute were underway.

"Ambassador Holbrooke had some productive ideas about resolving this situation," Gregg's press secretary, Ed Amorosi said Friday. "He is working to implement his proposals."

According to the United Nations, the remainder of the blocked funds total around $328 million, but Senate aides put the figure closer to $260 million.

As chairman of the Senate subcommittee overseeing State Department expenditures, Gregg used his power to block the funds even though it was money already appropriated by Congress.

Sen. Judd Gregg, R.-N.H.
Gregg and other members of Congress heading foreign affairs committees have the power to block any changes in State Department expenditures, including foreign aid.

Amorosi said Greg has supported past funding for U.N. peacekeeping but disagrees with how some U.N. policies are being implemented, particularly in Sierra Leone, where peacekeepers have been taken hostage.

He's not alone. Earlier this month, Holbrooke also criticized the conduct of recent peacekeeping missions.

Gregg has said he would withhold the money at least until the situation in Sierra Leone has changed. About 260 U.N. peacekeepers are still being held hostage by rebels in the country, which has been torn apart by civil war.

Annan said the U.N. is "not in good financial shape," owing hundreds of millions of dollars to member states that have provided peacekeeping troops, and added that Gregg's move "is only going to make matters worse."

Annan said he feared Gregg's action also would block funds intended to double the number of peacekeepers in Lebanon to 8,000. The Clinton administration has said it would support U.N. efforts to keep peace after Israel abruptly withdrew from Lebanon but will not contribute American troops.

Annan said he expects to make a formal recommendation to send additional peacekeepers to Lebanon "within days" and expects the troops to be in the region "within weeks." He said he is awaiting formal confirmation of a complete Israeli withdrawal from U.N. emissaries in the region.

A U.N. Interim Force of about 4,500 has been in southern Lebanon since 1978, just north of the border security zone Israel gave up in the pullout.

Annan indicated plans to increase the force after Israel announced plans to withdraw by July. The withdrawal was accelerated this week when pro-Israel Lebanese rebels surrendered and fled, and Israeli soldiers departed the region ahead of schedule.

Later, in a commencement address at Johns Hopkins University's international studies school, Annan proposed a tougher approach to U.N. peacekeeping in the future.