WASHINGTON - The White House reacted with indignation yesterday to international speculation that the United States lost seats on United Nations panels on human rights and narcotics because of Bush administration foreign policy and indicated there are no immediate plans to try to regain the posts.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said repeatedly during the day that the United States does not agree that any blame rests with unilateral U.S. actions that have offended other nations.
Those include missile-defense planning and denunciation of the 1972 arms-control treaty; worsening relations with China and North Korea; abrogation of the Kyoto global warming treaty; refusal to ratify the nuclear test ban treaty; refusal to ratify a treaty setting up an international court, and sluggishness in paying one-third of the $1.6 billion the United States owes the United Nations in back dues and for peacekeeping operations.
Mr. Fleischer said President Bush does not blame Secretary of State Colin Powell for not doing his homework to make sure that the United States had the votes to retain its two seats.
Some think Secretary Powell did not commit enough effort to the task.
Mr. Bush supports Secretary Powell and “understands'' that the situation has nothing to do with Mr. Powell's performance, Mr. Fleischer said.
The United States says it had written confirmation from 43 nations out of 54 that it would retain its seat on the human rights panel.
But in a secret ballot, the United States got only 29 votes. It got only 21 votes for staying on the drug control panel.
Mr. Fleischer said there are no immediate plans to complain to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the ouster of the United States from the U.N. Human Rights Commission and the U.N. International Narcotics Control Board, two areas in which the United States has been particularly vocal and has offended other nations.
Some critics of the Bush administration say it is showing strains of a new “isolationism.'' Madeleine Albright, who was secretary of State under former President Clinton, said this week that Europeans in particular are upset increasingly with the “unilateralism'' the United States has engaged in lately.
Officially, the United States says its reaction is one of “disappointment'' that U.N. members put countries such as Sudan, which the State Department considers repressive, on the human-rights panel and took the United States off. This will only hurt people around the world who yearn for freedom, Mr. Fleischer said.
He said, “It's not very effective for these entities within the United Nations to remove the United States from those panels. It's going to hurt their ability to win the war on drugs.''
He added, “It's a good question to ask the U.N., `What kind of signal it is sending the world when it removes the United States from the human-rights panel and puts Sudan and Libya on the human-rights panel.”
There has been growing tension for years over congressional refusal to pay the amount the United Nations says the United States owes. Threatened with the United States being ousted from the General Assembly for nonpayment, the Senate recently agreed to pay one-third of the money, but the House has not yet acted.
There is now concern that conservative Republicans in the House who regard the United Nations as too controlling will use the U.N. votes to block payment.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday, “There's something happening out there [at the U.N.].''