June 29, 2017 / 8:33 AM / 2 months ago

U.N. states agree $7.3 bln peacekeeping budget, U.S. share cut 7.5 pct

A Ghanaian UN peacekeeper stands watch as children look on at a protection camp for displaced civilians in Bentiu, South Sudan June 18, 2017.David Lewis

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - United Nations states struck a deal on Wednesday on a $7.3 billion annual peacekeeping budget, diplomats said, cutting $600 million from current costs and slicing 7.5 percent off the U.S. bill following calls by President Donald Trump to slash funding.

Washington initially proposed a peacekeeping budget of $6.99 billion for the year from July 1, 2017, which would have reduced its share of the bill by more than 10 percent to $1.99 billion.

In the early hours of Wednesday, the 193-member U.N. budget committee agreed on $7.3 billion to fund 13 peacekeeping missions and a logistics support office. The budget is due to be adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on Friday, diplomats said.

The U.S. initial peacekeeping budget proposal was the lowest made of all states and regional blocs and nearly $1 billion less than U.N. chief Antonio Guterres' suggestion.

While Trump has described U.S. funding for the U.N. as "peanuts" compared to its "important work," he complains its share of the peacekeeping bill, currently 28.5 percent, is "unfair." In his 2018 budget proposal he requested Congress approve only $1.2 billion for U.N. peacekeeping.

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told U.S. lawmakers in Washington on Wednesday that Trump's proposed U.S. federal budget was "making a point that he wanted to strengthen the military and it was putting the United Nations on notice."

"I have used that as leverage ... now we're seeing a lot of the other countries come forward and say 'yes we should do reform,'" Haley said. "I really do think the message was effective."

The United States is also reviewing each of the U.N. peacekeeping missions as annual mandates come up for renewal by the U.N. Security Council in a bid to cut costs. The United States is a veto-wielding member of the council, along with Britain, France, Russia and China.

"There's a lot of fat around the edges and some abuses that happen at the U.N., but I do think it is very important that we make the most of it," Haley said.

Washington also pays 22 percent of the $5.4 billion biennial U.N. core budget.

Ultimately the U.S. Congress sets the federal government budget and will decide how much money is available for U.N. funding. Republicans, who control both houses, and Democrats have said they do not support drastic cuts proposed by Trump.

Trump wants to enforce a 25 percent cap on the U.S. contribution to U.N. peacekeeping. The U.N. General Assembly is due to negotiate next year new levels of contributions by countries for 2019, 2020 and 2021.

Guterres has pledged to make U.N. peacekeeping more efficient but has noted that the current budget to fund it is less than one half of 1 percent of global military spending.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Tom Brown

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