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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

UN's Annan Announces Personnel, Finance Cuts

UNITED NATIONS -- New United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, under heavy pressure from the United States for far-reaching reform of the world body, has announced personnel and financial steps that include trimming 1,000 staff jobs and cutting $123 million from the 1998-99 budget.

Annan presented the measures Monday, two days before U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson goes to Capitol Hill for the first time to testify to congressional committees seeking tough, cost-cutting steps by the United Nations before approving U.S. payments to it -- estimated by the UN at $1.3 billion. U.S. and UN officials expressed hope Monday that Annan's announcement would give Richardson the ammunition to get the hearings off to a positive start.

But the initial reaction from congressional conservatives was negative. The package drew criticism in part for leaving unclear whether the staff reductions were real eliminations of jobs, or merely the result of leaving unfilled for now positions that are temporarily vacant.

"These look like repackaged ideas from old, discredited reform proposals that didn't fly with Congress before, and we're very concerned about whether Annan is playing a shell game,'' said Marc Thiessen, spokesman for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Annan called the package, which had been awaited since he took office Jan. 1, the first or "track one'' phase of his proposed reforms, including steps he said can be implemented immediately.

A "track two'' series of long-range initiatives that will require cooperation by the 185 UN member states is being prepared by Annan's staff, and he said he intends to make them public in July.

In Monday's proposals, Annan announced that "new efficiencies will enable the reduction of 1,000 posts'' from the secretariat or core staff which works directly for the secretary general. It currently has between 8,500 and 9,000 employees. The other major reform was Annan's intention to cut the UN budget, which is adopted for a two-year period, by $123 million for 1998-99. His announcement said details of where the cuts would be made will be spelled out later. The regular UN operating budget this year is roughly $1.3 billion.

The measures clearly were intended to send a signal that the secretary general is prepared to undertake the kind of serious reform demanded by Republican conservatives who now control the U.S. Congress.