Fifty-two countries including somalia are so far in arrears on their U.N. budget and peacekeeping payments that most have lost their vote in the 188-member General Assembly, a U.N. spokesman said Tuesday.

The Assembly has exempted seven of these countries from the no-vote rule due to special circumstances, such as civil war and other disasters. They include Bosnia, Comoros, Tajikistan, Congo Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Nicaragua and Georgia.

The 52 nations, the highest number in years, fell victim to Article 19 of the U.N. Charter, which says that any member whose arrears equal or exceed the contributions due for the preceding two full years is deprived of its Assembly vote.

However, many of them are expected to pay enough of their arrears to keep their vote before the main General Assembly session in September or any major meetings before then.

At the end of 1999, only 19 countries were left on the original deadbeat list of 42. And seven of these nations were exempt for special conditions. Among those losing their vote was Ukraine, a new member of the 15-nation Security Council, which owes $15 million due to a steep rise in its assessments after the break up of the Soviet Union, which it has protested unsuccessfully.

The United States just escaped being classified in this category, which usually includes the world's poorest countries, by paying just enough of its huge arrears to keep its vote. Washington now owes the United Nations about $1.2 billion. Iraq, which owes $11 million, has not paid because of the stringent U.N. trade sanctions imposed in mid-1990.

And Yugoslavia has not paid in seven years, having been suspended from the General Assembly during the Balkan war and until its status was settled following the breakup of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. U.N. spokesman John Mills said that only 43 countries lived up to their U.N. Charter obligation to meet a Jan. 31 deadline for full payment of their U.N. regular budget dues for the year 2000.

But that was 11 more countries than paid up by the deadline in 1999 and the highest in recent years. Many more nations are expected to pay in the next few weeks and months but numbers of countries which paid up belie the actual state of U.N. finances.

About 15 nations account for 85 percent of the U.N. budget, with the United States billed for 25 percent and Japan for nearly 20 percent, followed by Germany, France, Italy and Britain. Among the group of 15 only France, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, Russia and Sweden have paid in full. Member states, including many who have just paid enough to keep their vote, owe a total of about $3.47 billion for the regular budget and peacekeeping.

The 45 countries that lost their votes were: Afghanistan, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Dominica, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Moldova, Mongolia, Niger, North Korea, Rwanda, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Yemen and Yugoslavia.


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