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US votes against UN budget, citing antisemitism and failure to pressure Iran 

Only Israel voted with US against United Nations' 2021 programme budget, citing antisemitism and issues with Iran sanctions
US Ambassador Kelly Craft accused UN members of abandoning "principle for expediency" (AFP/File photo)

Just weeks before its exit from the White House, the Trump administration voted against the United Nations' 2021 programme budget, citing its continued support for a pro-Palestinian anti-racism conference and its refusal to snapback sanctions against Iran. 

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The US and Israel both voted against the $3.2bn budget for 2021, while 168 members voted in favour. 

US Ambassador Kelly Craft, in a statement on Thursday, stressed that the US is "a firm believer in the United Nations" while accusing members of abandoning "principle for expediency and integrity for the presumed benefits of consensus".

"We convince ourselves that accommodation of all viewpoints, including those that run counter to the values outlined in the UN Charter, will eventually yield long-term progress," Craft said. 

'Poisoned by antisemitism'

Specifically, she pointed to the UN budget's support for an official event during the 76th General Assembly commemorating the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. 

The body plans to host an event marking the 20th anniversary of the Durban conference, an anti-racism event first held in South Africa in 2001 that has been critical of Israel's discriminatory policies. Craft described the UN-supported event as being "poisoned by anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias".

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The vote marks the second time the US has voted against consensus approval of the UN budget. The first took place in 2007 when then-US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad voted against the budget in a 142-1 vote. At the time, Khalilzad also cited objections over funding for a follow-up to the Durban conference.

In her statement on Thursday, Craft also slammed the UN for its failure to implement the snapback of previously lifted sanctions on Iran, but added that the sanctions had been re-imposed as far as the US was concerned. 

The Trump administration called on the world body in October to reimplement sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme and halt the deadline set to lift the UN's arms embargo, which it did not move to do. 

The Trump administration has repeatedly clashed with UN organisations during the past four years, quitting the World Health Organisation and pulling funding to several other UN bodies, including its Palestinian refugee agencym, the UNRWA. 

President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to reverse many of Trump's moves regarding the UN and seek to repair the Iran nuclear deal and rejoin other world bodies. 

The current president of the UN General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir of Turkey, in a tweet on Tuesday said he was "concerned and disappointed" that the budget hadn't yet been approved.

The UN "has a responsibility to address the pressing challenges we are facing because of the pandemic," he wrote. "If Member States fail to reach [an] agreement, the consequences for UN work will be dire."