U.N. Flap Develops from U.S. Criticism: 3 Nations Protest Blunt Evaluation

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NEW YORK - Three countries have filed diplomatic protests with the U.S. government after being labeled "irrational, unreasonable . . . reactionary states" by U.S. official Richard Sklar.

Mr. Sklar, point man for management and reform issues at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, complained in a December interview with The Washington Times that delegates from Pakistan, Syria, Cuba and Algeria were obstructing efforts to rein in spending at the organization.

Cuba has not responded, but the other three have registered formal protests with the U.S. Mission or the State Department.

Several diplomats involved in the tortuously complicated U.N. budget process have complained that Mr. Sklar's remarks were not only "uncalled for" or "undiplomatic," but say the blunt-spoken negotiator wasn't around for many of the budget meetings during the autumn and winter.

"He comes in on some issues - such as the [peacekeeping support account]," said one delegate on the Fifth Committee, which deals with budgets. "He was seen in those negotiations in the middle of October, and then for a couple days before the end" of the budget discussions.

U.S. Mission spokesman Tom Shea said yesterday that Mr. Sklar - who came to New York after serving as the Clinton administration's civilian reconstruction coordinator in Bosnia-Herzegovina - returned to Bosnia five times during 1998 at the request of the State Department.

But Mr. Sklar said he was away only from Dec. 4 through 10 during the crunch season for budget negotiations in early and mid-December, and that he was in "constant contact" with his deputy during that time.

In its Dec. 31 letter to the State Department Bureau of South Asian Affairs, Pakistan's ambassador to Washington "conveyed concern and disappointment over the uncalled for and disparaging remarks about Pakistan."

Syrian Ambassador Mikhail Wehbe said in his letter to the U.S. Mission here that he was "deeply appalled" by the remarks. He noted that his delegation did not participate in most of the budget discussions, and said it was firmly in accord with the rest of the 133-member Group of 77 (G-77) developing nations.

In a direct gibe at U.S. failure to pay more than $1 billion in assessed dues to the United Nations, the Syrian letter also noted that Syria pays its U.N. dues annually.

Mr. Sklar, on vacation through the end of January, could not be reached directly for comment. However, the diplomat did convey, via Mr. Shea, that he had not meant to include Syria in the group of nations hostile to streamlining the U.N. management process.

He also said that he meant that Pakistan, Algeria and Cuba were reactionary in their approach to the budget process - not that they were reactionary in general.

Acting U.S. Ambassador Peter Burleigh met with Syria's ambassador on Monday evening to clarify Mr. Sklar's remarks.

But Washington will not formally respond to Pakistan or Algeria, said Mr. …