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UN chief says he hopes for constructive relations with Trump

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during the opening of the 72nd regular session of the UN General Assembly Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
September 13, 2017 - 6:58 PM

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday he has been trying to build "a constructive relationship" with President Donald Trump — and he hopes that will be the U.S. leader's message when they meet during next week's gathering of world leaders at the United Nations.

Guterres said at a news conference if that is what Trump conveys to him "that message will be well received."

Trump wants major cuts to the U.N. budget and significant changes to the world organization.

Guterres and Trump are scheduled to speak at a meeting on reforming the United Nations sponsored by the United States on Monday, the eve of the opening of the assembly's high-level session when the U.S. leader will address the 193-member General Assembly for the first time.

The United States is the largest contributor to the U.N. budget, reflecting its position as the world's largest economy. It pays 25 per cent of the U.N.'s regular operating budget and over 28 per cent of the separate peacekeeping budget.

The Trump administration is conducting a review of the U.N.'s 16 far-flung peacekeeping operations, which cost nearly $8 billion a year, and cutting their costs and making them more effective is a top priority for the current U.S. ambassador, Nikki Haley.

Guterres has said he is totally committed to reforming the U.N. and making it more responsive to the needs of the 21st century world. As for the peacekeeping budget, he told reporters Wednesday his intention is to do everything possible to make the missions "the most effective" as well as "cost-effective."

Asked about the impact of Trump's policy of "America First," the U.N. chief said, "It's my deep belief that the best way to preserve American interests is to engage positively in global affairs and to engage positively in support to multilateral organizations like the U.N."

Guterres said in response to a question that he had no special message for Trump and would tell the president what he tells all leaders about the two top global concerns — Myanmar and North Korea — and about climate change.

He said "ethnic cleansing" is taking place in Myanmar against Rohingya Muslims and has urged an immediate end to violence. He has called for a halt to North Korea's nuclear weapon and ballistic missile tests and a return to talks on its nuclear program.

As for climate concerns, Guterres said his position is that the international community needs to step up implementation of the 2015 Paris agreement on global warming. "The green economy is not only necessary to rescue the planet, it is also the smart way to look into development at the present moment," he added.

Trump has announced the United States will pull out of the Paris accord.

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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