The United States has proposed a massive overhaul of a draft agreement to be signed by world leaders next month at a summit on U.N. reform. The proposal has thrown the reform exercise into chaos.
Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton sent a letter this week to envoys of the other 190 member nations calling for immediate negotiations on an outcome document for the meeting of heads of state and government set to begin September 14.
Separately, the U.S. mission sent a small group of U.N. envoys a list of suggested changes to a draft document that has been under negotiation for nearly six months. The list recommends deleting more than 400 passages in the 38-page document, effectively reducing it to three pages.
U.S. suggestions include dropping any reference to the International Criminal Court, the Kyoto treaty on global warming, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, all of which are opposed by the Bush administration. The U.S. proposal would also eliminate any mention of the Millennium Development Goals agreed to at a similar summit five years ago.
The U.S. proposal has raised concerns among many diplomats who had thought negotiations on the outcome document were nearly complete. One Asian ambassador privately said Washington appears to be trying to sabotage the reform process just three weeks before the summit.
U.N. General Assembly President Jean Ping has been spearheading the process of drafting the outcome document.
Mr. Ping, who is also Gabon's foreign minister, told reporters he is urgently organizing a meeting of about 30 ambassadors to consider the U.S. suggestions. But he admits the proposed changes are more than cosmetic; they go to fundamental issues facing the world body.
U.S. mission spokesman Richard Grenell rejected suggestions that Washington wants to renegotiate the draft document.
"But to use word renegotiate is ridiculous," he said. " There's an assumption in that statement that it was finished, it wasn't finished. We've given our opinion, and it's not even amendments, to even say that somehow we've amended something, we didn't amend, we're giving our opinion, you ask for our opinion, you get our opinion."
Mr. Grenell predicted that the debate over U.N. reform would not be completed in time for the September summit, and might go on for years.
"There's a lot to be done," he noted, " we want to get in and start reforming these institutions and making them more accountable, and more transparent, that's a lot of work, work that's gonna be done over months and years. Make no mistake, it's not gonna be done, we will not be able to reform the UN, and say we're finished, on September whatever, it's a long process."
Spokesman Grenell said the United States will work to keep reform at the top of the U.N. agenda, in line with Ambassador Bolton's thinking. He said the U.S. envoy intends to work intensively with other ambassadors on the text of the outcome document for the three-day summit in September.
President Bush and 170 other heads of state and government are planning to attend the gathering, which was called by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to mark the world body's 60th anniversary.