U.S. pays off much of U.N. arrears, now owes $736 million

UNITED NATIONS Tue Jan 25, 2011 5:06pm EST

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States has paid off more than a third of the nearly $1.2 billion in payments it owed the United Nations at the end of last year, a U.N. spokesman said on Tuesday.

As of the end of November 2010, the United States owed $1.182 billion, accounting for just over a quarter of all the money due the world body. Washington paid nearly half a billion dollars of what it owed for peacekeeping, the regular U.N. budget and other items.

"The updated situation at the end of 2010 reflects significant payments made by the U.S. at the end of calendar year 2010," U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said.

"That leaves total outstanding assessed (mandatory) contributions of $736.2 million," he said.

As the United Nations' single biggest contributor, Washington is responsible for roughly one-quarter of the U.N. peacekeeping budget and slightly less than a quarter of the separate U.N. regular budget.

The United States has had a history of being reluctant to pay its U.N. dues, with critics of the world body charging it has a bloated and sometimes corrupt bureaucracy. U.N. supporters say the dues are cheap at the price.

The administration of President Barack Obama repaid all the money the United States owed the United Nations in 2009 and has vowed to pay Washington's U.N. dues "in full and on time."

The announcement about the reduction in U.S. arrears at the United Nations comes as U.S. Republicans threatened on Tuesday to use their new power as the majority in the House of Representatives to withhold funding for the world body, which they accused of waste and bias.

The chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, said she would reintroduce legislation that would condition U.S. contributions to the U.N. on "real, sweeping reform."

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters that the world body and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shared U.S. goals of a stronger, more efficient, effective and accountable United Nations.

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau, Editing by Anthony Boadle)

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