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US calls on UN to bar drunken diplomats

UNITED NATIONS, March 5 (BSS/AFP) - The United States yesterday called for drunk diplomats to be barred from United Nations' budget negotiations.

Annual talks on how much the global body spends have become increasingly tense as western nations call for spending cuts.

"We make the modest proposal that the negotiating rooms should in future be an inebriation-free zone," Joseph Torsella, deputy US ambassador for management and reform, told the UN General Assembly's budget committee.

The assembly's budget body, the Fifth Committee, holds marathon negotiations in December each year on spending and national contributions.

These often last all night for several days in a row so that a vote can be held before the end of year holidays.

Some envoys have turned up for talks "falling down drunk," said one diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, who said he suspected that in some cases it was an attempt to hold up talks.

"On one occasion the note-taker who was meant to be recording the talks was so intoxicated he had to be replaced," said another diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"While my government is truly grateful for the strategic opportunities presented by some recent past practices, let's save
the champagne for toasting the successful end of the session, and
do some credit to the Fifth Committee's reputation in the process," Torsella told the meeting.

More long nights are expected at the current night of talks and many delegations are anxious to get them finished before the Easter holidays start.

Torsella soberly called on his colleagues for more discipline and an end to attempts to block accords by failing to turn up for negotiations.

Torsella warned that if "negotiators do not arrive on time for meetings scheduled on nights and weekends, or simply refuse to meet on a specific item in order to run down the clock, we must conclude that they do not share a commitment to negotiating in good faith, and we will respond accordingly."