- WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President
George W. Bush has asked lawmakers to approve a 1.2-billion-dollar loan
to the United Nations to pay for a major renovation the UN headquarters
in New York, the State Department said.
- Bush, who is frequently derided by critics as a staunch
foe of the multilateral diplomatic approach followed by the United Nations,
included the loan request in the foreign operations section of his proposed
fiscal 2005 budget which was released on Monday.
- State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the request
"provided for a practical way to move forward on (UN chief Kofi Annan's)plan"
to gut and modernize the 38-story green glass building on the East River
over six years.
- "We're offering to provide a loan to the United
Nations for the full 1.2 billion dollars estimated cost of the plan,"
Boucher told reporters.
- If approved by Congress, the United Nations would pay
5.5 percent interest, the current US Treasury rate, on the loan which would
be repayable over 30 years, Boucher said.
- Although he maintained the Treasury would break even
on the loan in the long term, Boucher acknowledged that as the largest
contributor to the UN budget, the United States would be responsible for
22 percent of the repayment costs.
- Annan, who was in Washington on Tuesday meeting with
Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites), unveiled his
ambitious renovation plan two years ago, saying he wanted it to begin in
- Built in 1949, UN headquarters is now "seriously
deficient in safety, fire and building codes, energy efficiency and security
requirements," Annan said in presenting his proposal.
- He defended the cost, noting that repairing the building
on an ad hoc and emergency basis would cost more than two billion dollars
over 25 years.
- Under the plan, the United Nations would be moved to
a new, purpose-built tower on a New York City playground immediately south
of the UN complex wile the landmark headquarters is being redone.
- In return, the United Nations would give the city a strip
of riverside land which could be turned into a cycling track.
- Annan had proposed financing the plan with interest-free
loans from UN member states over 25 to 30 years.