UNITED NATIONS – The White House expressed disappointment Tuesday over the United States' removal from an international drug monitoring body, saying the move will thwart efforts to control drug trafficking.
U.S. officials confirmed Monday that American representative Herbert Okun was voted off the International Narcotics Control Board after two terms in a secret ballot procedure last week. He had served on the panel since 1992 and was seeking a third term.
Okun was rejected Thursday by the same procedure that cost the United States its seat on the United Nations' human rights commission in another vote the same day. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said President Bush was disappointed by the two defeats, but "he's not going to let it stop him from carrying out the mission of the United States."
"It's not very effective for these entities within the U.N. to remove the United States from those panels. It's going to hurt their ability to win the war on drugs," Fleischer said. "It's a good question to ask the U.N. what kind of signal it is sending the world when they remove the United States from the human rights panel and put Sudan and Libya on the human rights panel."
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States would continue its "strong support" for U.N. anti-drug programs despite its ouster from the 13-member board that monitors compliance with U.N. drug conventions on substance abuse and illegal trafficking.
Seven countries -- Iran, Brazil, India, Peru, France, Netherlands and Austria -- were elected to the board Thursday. China, Russia, Nigeria, Turkey, Mexico and Chile complete their current terms in 2005.
Boucher would not speculate as to why Okun lost re-election but, coupled with the loss of the human rights seat, he said "there's something happening out there."
"Clearly, I think it's fair to speculate there may be issues related to how we handled ourselves, to how we position," he said.
The 54-member U.N. Economic and Social Council, the main U.N. body responsible for economic and social issues, cast secret ballots that led to the U.S. ouster from the narcotics board and the Human Rights Commission.
The human rights vote spurred calls by some U.S. lawmakers to withhold $582 million in back dues for the United Nations and $67 million to rejoin UNESCO 17 years after the United States left over concerns about political polarization.
Former U.S. drug policy director Barry McCaffrey said another strike at the United States could "add to the sentiment in Congress that would say, `Why should we support regional or multinational U.N. operations?"'
McCaffrey, who used to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy, framed the vote as a sharper blow to other countries than to the United States.
"It's a great loss to the international community to not have us in a leadership position," her said. "We play a dominant role in the research and development of drug treatment programs in the world."
In the corridors at the United Nations, diplomats and U.N. officials said after the human rights defeat that the United States didn't lobby hard enough. The absence of a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations for nearly four months has exacerbated the problem.
Many nations -- including U.S. allies in Europe -- are angry at the Bush administration's rejection of an international agreement to reduce global warming and its plans to push ahead with a new missile defense system.
President Bush has also refused to ratify the treaty creating an international criminal court, and the U.S. Senate refused to ratify the nuclear test ban treaty.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Monday that "member states, particularly those who have been very strongly supportive of the international criminal court, have been disappointed by the U.S. not coming on board."
Critics at home have accused the Bush administration of retreating from a leading role worldwide, arguing that the United States can do more to ensure its security by participating in international organizations than by standing on the sidelines.