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U.N. chief announces plan to reduce waste

Secretary-General Kofi Annan outlined the first detailed, concrete plans for streamlining the United Nations in the hope of polishing its image, solving its financial problems and persuading Congress to authorize spending for about $1-billion in unpaid U.S. dues.

Monday's proposals, the first part of a reform program Annan promised when he assumed the job in January, deal mainly with management and organizational matters that fall under the secretary-general's personal authority. They involve shifting some $200-million in bureaucratic spending to development aid, reducing budget and staff levels and reorganizing parts of the New York-based secretariat.

The response was favorable, both from the administration and from the most powerful critic of the United Nations in Congress, Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Annan called Helms to brief him on the proposals.

Helms' spokesman, Mark Thiessen, called Annan's announcement "a good first step in the right direction." But he said the senator wants to ensure the staff cuts are real. "We don't want any shell games here," he said.

Helms will press for conditions to be written into legislation authorizing payment of Washington's arrears to ensure that certain goals are met before any money is paid, Thiessen said.

Annan was chosen for the position after Washington vetoed a second term for his predecessor, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, saying he had not done enough to promote change at the United Nations.

While Annan defended the changes as "a powerful tool for strengthening the organization," he made clear his other objectives.

"Congress said it will pay if it gets reform. We are giving them reform. I hope they will deliver on their part of the bargain," he said.

Annan said he will present a package of more sweeping suggestions in July for the long term, for which he would seek member states' approval.

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