U.N. chief meets with President Obama

Source: Associated Press | By John Heilprin

Buoyed by President Barack Obama’s pledge to work on bringing peace to Darfur, the U.N. chief is making the rounds of Capitol Hill to strengthen cooperation on climate change and other pressing global crises.

Ban, who became secretary-general in January 2007, accepted Obama’s invitation for an Oval Office meeting Tuesday. At the meeting, Obama declared that the violence in Darfur and inaction in the face of its worsening humanitarian crisis are “not acceptable.” The president pledged to work more closely with the United Nations to bring peace to western Sudan’s conflict-wracked region.

Ban told Obama that 2009 is a “make-or-break” year for the organization and its member countries and that he hopes the United States will work with the international organization to address global warming and the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

Ban’s top priority this year is to encourage global leaders to adopt a new international climate treaty at a conference in December in Copenhagen.

“It’s the beginning of the establishment of a close relationship between the two,” said Peter Yeo, a vice president for the U.N. Foundation launched by media mogul Ted Turner’s $1 billion donation in 1997.

Yeo, a former House Democratic staffer and foreign policy adviser to both the Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton campaigns last year, said Obama’s budget proposal also is a hopeful sign for the U.S.-U.N. relationship.

The United States has agreed as usual to pay nearly a quarter of the U.N.’s $4.86 billion operating budget, although it is perennially late with its dues. Now, Obama is seeking a 9.5 percent increase in international affairs spending, which would be enough to cover not only next year’s U.S. dues to the U.N. but also the nearly $1 billion the U.S. owes.

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Remarks of both leaders are available from the White House website.

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