Ban wants stronger UN-US relationship

UN chief speaks to Clinton on sidelines of Sharm conference, says US should contribute to Darfur.

mitchell clinton ban sharm 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
mitchell clinton ban sharm 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
At his first meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the UN chief pressed for more money and stronger American leadership on climate change, the Middle East, chaos in Somalia and justice in Darfur. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was encouraged by Clinton's response to his request for additional cash for peacekeepers and other badly stretched UN priorities. They spoke on the sidelines of an international conference in Egypt on Monday that raised $5.2 billion in pledges for rebuilding Gaza, at the conclusion of the UN secretary-general's nine-day, six-nation African tour. "She is quite supportive, and she told me that she will, her administration, the Obama administration is committed to working very closely politically and also (with) these financial contributions," Ban told The Associated Press in a wide-ranging interview this week. The U.N. had a difficult relationship with the United States under former US Ambassador John Bolton, who served for 16 months in 2005-2006. He aggressively pursued former President George W. Bush's agenda, including pressing for sanctions against Iran and North Korea and an overhaul of the United Nations, antagonizing many UN member states with his abrasive approach. His successor, Zalmay Khalilzad, a gregarious and affable diplomat, improved relations. Ban, who became secretary-general in January 2007, has promoted a good working relationship with the world body's single biggest backer. The United States provides 22 percent of the organizations $4.86 billion operating budget, but is perenially late in paying its dues. "I told her that we highly value a stronger partnership between the US and the UN," he said. "Policy-wise, we will fully cooperate, but at the same time we expect (more) US support for the United Nations politically and financially." Ban told Clinton, a co-member of the so-called Quartet of Mideast peacemakers that also includes Russia and the European Union, that "we are looking forward to full engagement and leadership" from the US toward a two-nation peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The former New York senator visited Ban's native South Korea twice as first lady; he served as the nation's foreign minister. Now, they are determined to work toward his current No. 1 priority - brokering a new international climate treaty by the end of the year. Clinton assured Ban he could count on US leadership to reduce carbon dioxide, methane and other industrial gases that trap heat in the atmosphere like a greenhouse. On her first stint of Middle East diplomacy, Clinton called for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace and signaled a possible warming in US relations with Syria. She said President Barack Obama would continue the Bush administration's focus on seeking a two-state solution that involves Israel and a sovereign Palestinian state. She made it clear, however, that Obama would take a more active approach than Bush.