January 11, 2020 / 8:00 PM / 10 days ago

Lebanon 'regrets' U.N. voting rights suspension over membership arrears

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon’s foreign ministry said on Saturday that it “regretted” the revoking of the country’s voting rights at the U.N. General Assembly after falling behind on membership dues, saying the state’s “reputation and prestige” would be impacted.

Lebanon is facing its worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war, with the Lebanese pound slumping amid a shortage of dollars while banks are tightly controlling access to cash and blocking transfers abroad.

It is also without a functioning government since Saad al-Hariri quit as prime minister in October, a situation criticized this week by Jan Kubis, the by U.N.’s Special Coordinator for Lebanon, as “increasingly irresponsible”.

The U.N. said Friday that seven countries are so far behind in paying their dues that they are losing their voting privileges in the 193-member General Assembly — Venezuela, Lebanon, Central African Republic, Gambia, Lesotho, Tonga and Yemen.

Lebanon’s finance ministry said on Saturday it had “not received any review or demand for payment of any dues to any party”. It said that the only review took place on Saturday morning and that the outstanding fees would be paid by Monday.

Under U.N. rules, a country can lose its General Assembly vote if is in arrears by any amount that equals or exceeds the contributions due for the previous two years, unless it shows evidence of an inability to pay that is beyond its control.

The 193-member world body has been faced with a cash crisis due to a lack of payments by countries.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres introduced extraordinary measures late last year to cope with the cash shortfall, including banning non-essential travel and cancelling or deferring some meetings.

Reporting by Nadine Awadalla in Beirut and Michelle Nichols in New York; editing by Mike Harrison

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