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US Envoy Criticizes Proposed Cuts of US Funds to UN

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, warned Thursday that the United States will lose influence abroad, if Congress approves a proposal to withhold funding for the global body. She also said Washington is pushing to nullify a recent U.N. human rights report that was critical of Israel's actions in Gaza.

Rice appeared before the House of Representatives' Committee on Foreign Affairs.

But before she was asked to begin her testimony, the committee's Republican chairwoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, said she plans to introduce legislation in Congress to make U.N. dues voluntary.

"We should pay for U.N. programs and activities that advance our interests, and our values. If other countries want different things to be funded, they can pay for it," she said.

She argued that would motivate the U.N. to reduce corruption and waste.

The United States currently pays 22 percent of the UN budget and a somewhat larger share of peacekeeping operations.

Rice said withholding contributions to promote reform, as was tried in the early 1990s, would be a mistake. "There's no question that when the United States is in debt to the United Nations, when we fail to meet our treaty obligations to pay our assessed contributions, that our influence is diminished, our standing is injured, and our ability to pursue important initiatives that advance U.S. national security and U.S. national interests is gravely undermined," Rice said.

Rice said the administration of President Barack Obama is working to promote budget discipline and transparency at the United Nations.

She also said the U.S. had led a successful effort to have Libya removed from the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Rice was asked about a U.N. Human Rights Council report, which alleged that Israel targeted civilians in its armed conflict with Hamas in the winter of 2008-2009. Richard Goldstone, the South African judge who wrote the report, retracted the allegation last week.

"With respect to Goldstone, the United States has been clear from the outset that we believe that report was gravely and fundamentally flawed, that it completely unfairly drew conclusions about Israel's intentions and conduct," Rice said.

Rice said the administration is now pushing for a nullifcation of the report at the U.N.

While criticizing the unfair treatment of Israel, Rice defended the United Nations' newly assertive roles in peacekeeping and peace-enforcing recently in Libya and Ivory Coast. She said they had saved civilians from mass slaughter.