New U.S. ambassador John R. Bolton has surprised diplomats with 750 amendments to a reform document key to next month's summit.
UNITED NATIONS Faced with a last-minute list of demands from Washington, key nations met in crisis talks here Friday to head off a collapse of a U.N. reform summit of 180 world leaders next month.
John R. Bolton, the new U.S. ambassador to the world body, surprised diplomats returning from vacation this week with 750 amendments to the reform document that is supposed to be the focus of the 60th anniversary summit Sept. 14.
In response to the ensuing panic, General Assembly President Jean Ping on Friday named a "core group" of nearly 30 countries, including the United States, to come up with a new text before the summit.
The group will concentrate on several crucial areas, such as defining terrorism, tackling disarmament and financing development, where the U.S. and other countries on each side have nearly unbudgeable positions.
The United States' 39-page revised draft eliminates nearly all references to the Millennium Development Goals adopted by all nations, including the United States, at a similar U.N. summit in 2000
The U.S. draft significantly reduces a section on poverty in favor of bolstered sections on strengthening free-market values and spreading democracy. It deletes mention of institutions and treaties the U.S. opposes, such as the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto treaty on global warming.
The draft also deletes a proposal that nuclear powers dismantle their arsenals, while strengthening passages on fighting terrorism.
Some diplomats worry there will be nothing of substance for leaders to sign in September.
"There will not be nothing. But what there will be may be watered down so much, it may mean nothing," said Greek Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis, who currently sits on the Security Council.
The reform document is meant to reaffirm the role of the United Nations in security and development and define ways the world body can deal with new challenges brought by epidemics, poverty, terrorism and deadly weapons. It is the result of more than a year and a half of studies and negotiations, and when the final draft was published Aug. 5 with a request for comments, U.N. officials expected a bit of last-minute tweaking.
"The whole thing is going to die by suffocation," Pakistani Ambassador Munir Akram said.
Bolton's proposed alternative to renegotiating the document line by line is a two- or three-page statement of general reform principles, with the details to be worked out later.
Bolton said "People understand that we have our differences. Other governments have their differences too. Now we have a chance to talk about it," he said.
"We want a successful outcome and a strong, substantive document," he said.
The United States is not the only nation with objections. One diplomat described Russia's list of proposed amendments as "the size of a telephone book."
Russian Ambassador Andrey Denisov said Russia did not have "an allergy to the short document" Bolton had proposed. "But it must be two or three substantial pages, not just slogans or formal statements of principles," he said.
Despite various objections from other regional groups, the focus is on the concerns of the U.S., in part because of Bolton's reputation for being a U.N. skeptic and a take-it-or-leave-it negotiator.
U.S. officials say the 11th-hour introduction of their many amendments was not an act of sabotage, but simply a result of a lengthy interagency consultation in Washington.
But some criticize the U.S. for being nearly silent during the months of the original negotiations this year.
In short, said Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya, the U.S. revision takes the conflict between U.S. interests and those of developing nations and rival powers straight into the spotlight of the U.N. stage, yet asks other nations to work together to protect the U.S. agenda.
The question is, how much is the United States willing to give?