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U.S. calls on UN to ban drunken diplomats from budget negotiations

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, March 4, 2013 18:25 EDT
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Beer via AFP
 
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The United States on Monday called for drunk diplomats to be barred from United Nations’ budget negotiations.

Annual talks on how much the global body spends have become increasingly tense as western nations call for spending cuts.

“We make the modest proposal that the negotiating rooms should in future be an inebriation-free zone,” Joseph Torsella, deputy US ambassador for management and reform, told the UN General Assembly’s budget committee.

The assembly’s budget body, the Fifth Committee, holds marathon negotiations in December each year on spending and national contributions.

These often last all night for several days in a row so that a vote can be held before the end of year holidays.

The United States is not calling for a ban on alcohol just on drunks, US officials said.

Some envoys have turned up for talks “falling down drunk,” said one diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. “On one occasion the note-taker who was meant to be recording the talks was so intoxicated he had to be replaced,” said another. Both spoke on condition of anonymity.

But the comments have caused some controversy. “It is absolutely not the case that everyone at the talks is drunk. All the people doing the negotiating are sober,” said a third diplomat.

“While my government is truly grateful for the strategic opportunities presented by some recent past practices, let’s save the champagne for toasting the successful end of the session, and do some credit to the Fifth Committee’s reputation in the process,” Torsella told the meeting.

More long nights are expected at the current night of talks and many delegations are anxious to get them finished before the Easter holidays start.

Torsella soberly called on his colleagues for more discipline and an end to attempts to block accords by failing to turn up for negotiations.

He warned that if “negotiators do not arrive on time for meetings scheduled on nights and weekends, or simply refuse to meet on a specific item in order to run down the clock, we must conclude that they do not share a commitment to negotiating in good faith, and we will respond accordingly.”

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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