'The U.N. Is a Broken Institution'

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," June 17, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNI A: We have got to make sure that there is consequences if they do not reform or they will not pay any attention to us. Remember the old show "Truth or Consequences?" Well, unless we provide consequences for activities and actions that are wrong, we are not going to get any truth.


JIM ANGLE, GUEST HOST: That was from today's debate over a bill to force the administration to cut 50 percent of U.S. dues to the U.N. if it doesn't enact a specific lift of reforms, that on the same day as elections in Iran and new statements from the North Koreans they might go back to negotiations over nuclear weapons.

Who better to talk to than Nick Burns, undersecretary of state for political affairs?

Ambassador Burns, thank for joining us.


ANGLE: Now, on this bill in Congress, they are talking about specific reforms. The administration also wants reforms, but it did not favor this bill. Why not?

BURNS: Well, we certainly favor reforms at the U.N. The U.N. is a broken institution. It badly needs administrative, budget and management reforms and a whole host of others. We just didn't — and we share that sentiment with the House, of course. We just didn't think the idea of withholding 50 percent of U.S. contributions would do the trick. I think it's much less likely reform would be take place if we simply walked away from the process. It would give us less access and less influence at the United Nations.

ANGLE: Now, some would surely arguing that it might give you more leverage because they would have a 50-percent cut in dues hanging over their heads.

BURNS: We have a lot of leverage right now. There's a real reform agenda underway at the United Nations. I think all the member states understand that we can't go on as with business as usual. And that's certainly true on the management side, but the Human Rights Commission is broken, the U.N. doesn't do peacekeeping as well as it should.

So our agenda, especially if John Bolton is confirmed by Senate, is to push U.N. reform very hard. President Bush has given that sentiment to the U.N. But we don't want to go back to the days of the United States withholding its obligations to the United Nations, as the lead nation and lead contributor, and that's to help fund the organization.

If we do that, I think we not only risk our credibility at the U.N., we risk a real blow to our credibility around the world. And our reliability would be questioned.

ANGLE: Now, there were elections in Iran today. We won't know the results for a while. But the fact is the Iranians did have another election. The administration criticized the process in advance. What was the reason for that?

BURNS: President Bush issued a statement yesterday because we had to tell the truth about these elections. You know, there were 1,014 candidates to run for president of Iran, and 1,008 of them were canceled in their candidacy by the Guardian Council. They were not allowed to run.

And so we don't think that's free and fair election. Women don't have a place in these elections. They can't run for office. The Guardian Council and the supreme leader, Khamenei, are controlling the process. So it's hard to describe them as free and fair.

ANGLE: Yes, that's one of the interesting things. Even if you got a reformist government in place, and they wanted to do some things, it can easily be overruled by the religious figures on the Supreme Council, right?

BURNS: That's exactly right. In February 2004, there were majlis elections, parliamentary elections. And the supreme leaders, the clerics, didn't like the results of the election and they simply annulled them. They told people they couldn't take their seats.

That's the kind of theocratic regime that's running Iran, and we didn't want to have any pretense, that see if these were somehow free and fair elections, as people watched FOX News, and CNN, the BBC, and saw people voting in Iran.

ANGLE: Now, one of the interesting things here, and one of the issues, of course, is what happens with Iran's nuclear ambitions and their nuclear program. They claim it's just for power. I understand the International Atomic Energy Agency now has a board that is looking at the question of how to deal with these nuclear technology questions in countries that claim they're not seeking nuclear weapons?

BURNS: That's exactly right. The problem we have with Iran is that everyone believes that Iran's trying to seek a nuclear weapon capability, but Iran says we're just seeking peaceful nuclear power. So we thought it was a good idea for the International Atomic Energy Agency to look into that.

And as you know, we are currently backing Britain, France and Germany in their big to have a negotiated outcome to this. But we're driving a hard bargain. We don't think Iran should have access to any part of the nuclear fuel cycle, and we think that cessation and dismantling of the entire fuel cycle process in Iran has to be the ultimate answer here.

ANGLE: Let me move quickly to North Korea while we have a little time left.

We had these statements made to a South Korean official that the North Koreans might actually go back to the talks, might actually rejoin the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, might even allow inspectors back in. Is this just another chapter in the hot and cold, sweet and sour pronouncements that we get from the North Koreans?

BURNS: Well, they with have been away from the talks for 12 months now. So I think we'd be wise to judge them by what they actually do, not by what they say. We certainly would welcome the North Koreans back at the six-party talks. It has been a long time since they have been there. But there are so many pronouncements from the North Korean regime, it's always better to watch what they do, not what they say.

ANGLE: One of the interesting things — just a few seconds left — is that they recently took great comfort in the fact that the president referred to the leader as Mr. Kim Jong Il. Is it that easy to give them the respect that they claim is the key to getting them back to the negotiating table?

BURNS: Well, you know, our policy is to play it straight, to talk about the real issue, and that is that North Korea should not have nuclear weaponry or nuclear technology. And the North Koreans seem to want to debate what names we call each other. We don't call people names. We just try to talk about the fact that that regime in Pyongyang is not responsible enough to have nuclear weapons.

ANGLE: OK. Ambassador Burns, thanks very much for joining us.

BURNS: Thank you very much, Jim.

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