Stung by a double blow to its U.N. stature, U.S. diplomats past and present are trying to explain what went wrong for the United States in crucial votes last week that left them off important international panels for the first time.

Although the United States believed it had the support going into a series of votes Thursday at the United Nations, it lost seats it has held for years on the U.N. Human Rights Commission and the International Narcotics Control Board.

"A lot of these votes come from countries that aren't friendly to us, a lot of it comes because the Europeans now vote as a group for themselves and we need an ambassador here who can take charge of things,"former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told The Associated Press.

The lack of a permanent U.S. ambassador has been suggested by some diplomats as a reason why U.S. lobbying efforts to retain the seats may have failed. Others have pointed to frustration over international treaties that the United States has refused to ratify.

Acting U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham would not address those suggestions Tuesday.

Instead, he reiterated U.S. disappointment and said America would ``pursue our efforts in the U.N. system and outside on human rights and on combatting drugs and we will do that through all the instruments at our disposal.''

One of the messages of the votes is that the United States should make a greater effort ``to be an international player where views of other nations count,'' said Bangladesh Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, whose country is on the powerful 15-member Security Council.

``It is necessary that they engage themselves more effectively and reasonably to the international efforts. After all we are in it together,'' he said.

While differences over human rights issues may have been on the minds of some who voted against the United States' seat on the Human Rights Commission last week, one Western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States has few disagreements with the international community regarding U.N. drug policies.

In Washington, White House spokesman Ari Fleisher said the Bush administration feels let down by other member nations that pledged to support U.S. candidates.

The House is to vote Thursday on a bill that provides $582 million to partially repay late dues to the United Nations. Angered by the vote, some lawmakers on Tuesday were trying to allow that payment but to condition the final payment of $244 million on the United States rejoining the rights commission.