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High hopes placed on Obama for better US-UN ties
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Senior foreign policy advisors across party lines in the United States appeared to have placed high hopes on president-elect Barack Obama to prioritize amending long-troubled US relations with the United Nations.

"It's our hope that the next administration will work closely with the United Nations," Ayca Ariyoruk, senior associate of Global Policy Programs at the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA), said in a recent interview with Xinhua.

For a better part of President George W. Bush's term, in particular the first four years, the world had witnessed strained US-UN relations caused largely by the onset of the Iraq war.

Ariyoruk said that the need to involve the United Nations in Iraq and Afghanistan helped bring about the realization that multilateralism is not outdated and that it is as relevant as before.

"That's why, even though not quite often than it might have recognized publicly, the (Bush) administration has been working with the United Nations behind the scenes and frequently," Ariyoruk said. "That is a clear change."

Despite signs of closer engagement, the moves were not seen by detractors as bold enough to be tantamount to the US standing in the world. Now, the sight of a new president being inclined more toward multilateralism is stoking great expectations for a fresh start with US-UN relationship.

In mid-November, the New York Times carried in full-page a statement issued by a bipartisan group of 36 senior foreign policy figures, including former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, urging the incoming Obama administration to make strengthening US-UN relations a major priority.

"In today's rapidly changing world of interdependence, globalization, and transnational threats, the United States must balance a strong military with creative diplomacy to secure America's interests," it reads.

The statement calls, among other things, for a US lead on UN efforts on nuclear proliferation, counter terrorism, climate change and the Millennium Development Goals, on a constructive role in UN reform and management, on timely dues payment and on the participation in the Human Rights Council, which has been rebuffed by the United States for lack of credibility.

Ariyoruk said that it is becoming increasingly obvious that the slew of interconnected problems the world now faces, ranging from worldwide financial instability, environmental degradation to energy shortage, dictate combined efforts and cooperation from all states.

"As we have seen more and more of that, the problems of today cannot be dealt by one country alone," she added.

There is a realization of that from the president-elect, as evidenced by his campaign rhetoric and a worldview that is in "striking contrast" to that of Bush, Ariyoruk said.

One of the priorities of the Obama administration will be to further involve the United Nations in Afghanistan, where the world body can play "a coordinating role", and in Iraq, where it can help engage neighboring countries to bring about security and stability.

Nonproliferation, climate change, energy and UN reform are also important issues for the administration, the senior associate added.

"When we look at all of these issues, immediate issues that the United States is facing, they all fall under the umbrella of the UN, so it is clear that they will be wise to work with the UN as much as they can," Ariyoruk said.

She expressed hope that the next administration would join the Human Right Council so as to better influence it from inside as "an active member, leader and team player".

Improving the US image in the world, which has been constantly on the decline according to various polls, will be a big issue for the Obama administration, Ariyoruk said.

"If they want to improve the US image, there is no quicker and better way than to do it at the United Nations," which has 192 member states, she added.

To start with, Obama, in his inaugural speech, should recognize the world body's importance for US foreign policy, said Ariyoruk, adding that the UNA-USA is currently urging its members to sign a petition in this regard.

(Xinhua News Agency December 3, 2008)

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