Russia and Estonia diplomatic communications break down as Moscow orders ambassador to leave

Revelations 6:3-4 “when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Important Takeaways:

  • Russia orders Estonian ambassador to leave country
  • The Estonian ambassador in Russia has been ordered to leave the country by 7 February after the Kremlin accused the country of “Russophobia”.
  • Margus Laidre is the first ambassador Russia has expelled since invading Ukraine last year.
  • Estonia responded by asking the Russian ambassador to leave by the same date.
  • Russia’s move against Mr. Laidre comes after Estonia recently ordered a reduction in the size of the Russian Embassy in Tallinn.
  • Moscow was told to reduce its embassy from 17 to eight by the end of January. In a statement in January, Estonia said embassy staff had stopped seeking to advance relations between the countries since the conflict broke out.
  • Tensions were also raised last week after representatives from 11 Nato nations gathered at an army base in Estonia to discuss a range of new packages to help Ukraine recapture territory and fend off any further Russian advances.
  • Latvia’s foreign ministry has also asked the Russian ambassador to leave by 24 February and said the country would support Estonia by reducing diplomatic relations with Russia.

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Trump says won’t deal with UK ambassador after leak of ‘inept’ memos

Britain's ambassador to the United States Kim Darroch (C) listens as U.S. President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May hold a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 27, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Michael Holden and William James

LONDON (Reuters) – Donald Trump said he would not deal with Britain’s ambassador to Washington after a leak of confidential memos in which the diplomat described the U.S. president’s administration as “inept”.

Trump also attacked Britain’s outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May, who had said her government had full confidence in ambassador Kim Darroch, criticizing her handling of Brexit and saying she disregarded his advice.

“What a mess she and her representatives have created,” he wrote on Twitter. “I do not know the Ambassador, but he is not liked or well thought of within the U.S. We will no longer deal with him. The good news for the wonderful United Kingdom is that they will soon have a new Prime Minister.”

The spat between the two close allies followed the leak to a British newspaper on Sunday of memos from Darroch to London in which he said Trump’s administration was “dysfunctional” and “diplomatically clumsy and inept”.

May’s spokesman said while Darroch’s opinions did not reflect the view of the government or ministers, he said the diplomat had London’s backing and ambassadors needed to have the confidence to give their frank assessments.

“Contact has been made with the Trump administration, setting out our view that we believe the leak is unacceptable,” May’s spokesman told reporters. “It is, of course, a matter of regret that this has happened.”

May is also due to leave office before the end of the month and has previously clashed with Trump over a number of issues from Brexit to the Iran nuclear deal.

However, the timing of the discord comes as Britain is hoping to strike a major trade deal with its closest ally after it leaves the European Union, an exit scheduled for Oct. 31.

The two contenders to replace May, former London mayor Boris Johnson and foreign minister Jeremy Hunt, have both indicated they could support leaving the EU without a deal, making a future agreement with the United States even more important.

Trade minister Liam Fox, who was visiting Washington this week, said he would apologize to Trump’s daughter Ivanka whom he was due to meet during his trip.

‘SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES’ FOR LEAKER

In confidential memos to his government dating from 2017 to the present, Darroch had said reports of in-fighting in the White House were “mostly true” and last month described confusion within the administration over Trump’s decision to call off a military strike on Iran.

“We don’t really believe this Administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction driven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept,” Darroch wrote in one cable.

British officials have launched an inquiry to find out who was responsible for the leak and foreign minister Hunt promised “serious consequences” for whoever was responsible.

He told the Sun newspaper that the inquiry would consider whether the memos had been obtained by hacking by a hostile state such as Russia although he said he had seen no evidence for this.

Asked whether British spies would join in the hunt, Jeremy Fleming, the head of the GCHQ intelligence agency, told BBC radio: “I can’t get into the detail of the investigation. If they require our services then GCHQ will help.”

Christopher Meyer, a former British ambassador to Washington, said there was a “possible range of villains”.

“It was clearly somebody who set out deliberately to sabotage Sir Kim’s ambassadorship, to make his position untenable and to have him replaced by somebody more congenial to the leaker,” he told BBC radio.

Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit Party and long a thorn in the side of British governments, said figures such as Darroch would be “not be around” if Johnson, the favorite to replace May, was selected by Conservative Party members.

However, former British foreign minister William Hague said Darroch should not be removed from his post, pointing out that no U.S. diplomats had been withdrawn from their roles after the mass release of secret U.S. cables by WikiLeaks in 2010 which included highly critical appraisals of world leaders.

“You can’t change an ambassador at the demand of a host country. It is their job to give an honest assessment of what is happening in that country,” Hague told BBC radio.

May’s spokesman said police would be involved if there was evidence that the leaker had committed a crime.

Two months ago, May fired defense minister Gavin Williamson after secret discussions in the National Security Council about Chinese telecoms firm Huawei were leaked to the media, and an inquiry concluded that he was responsible.

Williamson denied any involvement and police said there was no reason for a criminal investigation.

(Additional reporting by Andrew MacAskill, Kate Holton and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Jon Boyle)

Trump’s U.N. envoy: ‘Every day I feel like I put body armor on’

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley addresses a United Nations General Assembly meeting ahead of a vote on a draft resolution that would deplore the use of excessive force by Israeli troops against Palestinian civilians at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., June 13, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump came into office disparaging the United Nations and appointed politician Nikki Haley as the ambassador to carry out his disruptive agenda, but she has also shown Trump how the world body serves his purposes, specifically on North Korea.

The U.N. Security Council’s unanimous adoption of tougher sanctions three times last year that put pressure on Pyongyang to enter talks on scrapping its nuclear weapons program is the example Haley gave Trump in a phone call in June.

In an interview with Reuters, Haley recalled telling Trump: “We would not be in the situation we are with North Korea without the U.N. because that was the only way to get the international community on the same page.”

The United States and other countries believe the sanctions helped to bring North Korean leader Kim Jong Un around to meeting with Trump at a historic summit in Singapore in June.

Haley said Trump asked her what she thought of the United Nations, then 17 months into her post and after the United States became the first country to quit the U.N. Human Rights Council. She said she rattled off a litany of complaints.

“Unbelievably bureaucratic, it wastes a lot of money, it has some real biases against Israel, against us at times, it ignores a lot that’s going on that needs attention.”

Haley’s relay of their phone call illustrates how she guides the president who shuns the international forums and pacts the United States has helped build over decades. When Trump took office, he called the U.N. “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.”

Some diplomats have said they see the former South Carolina governor as the stable face of U.S. foreign policy. When Trump leaves them confused, some say they look to her for interpretation.

“My job is to give clarity to everything the administration’s doing so that no one wonders where we are. I always wanted to make sure there was no gray. That it was black and white,” Haley said in the interview during a trip last month to India, the country from which her parents emigrated to the United States.

Richard Gowan, a U.N. expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, described Haley’s job as selling the “administration’s anti-U.N. positions to the public.”

“That annoys other diplomats,” Gowan added.

RUSSIA TENSIONS

Haley has long taken a tougher public stance on Russia than her boss. In May she described Russian expansionism in Ukraine as “outrageous” and said the U.S. position “will not waver.”

Days later, however, Trump urged the Group of Seven countries to reinstate Russia, booted out for its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Two weeks before Trump’s July 16 summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Haley told Reuters that “basically what the president is saying is it’s better for us to have communication than not.”

But then the summit turned into a nightmare for the White House when Trump, at the joint news conference, sided with Putin’s denials of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election rather than the conclusions of his own intelligence agencies.

A political outcry in Washington drowned out Trump’s message that the two nuclear powers should improve their relations, which are at a post-Cold War low.

Haley has not responded to Reuters’ requests for comment on the summit.

Differences over Russia also caused rare public friction for Haley within the administration when she announced in April that Washington was going to sanction Moscow over its support of Syria’s government. Trump then decided not to go ahead.

“The president has every right to change his mind, every right,” Haley said. Trump never raised the incident with her, she said.

Her U.N. counterparts describe her as charming and yet very tough. She sees herself as a fighter.

“I don’t see (my role) as pushing an ‘America First’ policy, I see it as defending America because every day I feel like I put body armor on. I just don’t know who I’m fighting that day,” Haley said.

Haley carved out a high-profile role within the Trump administration from the moment she was offered the job, telling the president she would only accept it if she was made a member of the Cabinet and the National Security Council.

“She’s got an eye and ear for where the politics of an issue are,” said a senior Western diplomat, who, like all those consulted at the United Nations, would only speak on condition of anonymity.

Those kinds of instincts have helped put the 46-year-old mother of two on the list of possible Republican presidential candidates. She dismisses the presidential chatter and said it has never come up with Trump, who intends to run again in 2020, “because he knows he doesn’t need to raise it.”

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Mary Milliken and Grant McCool)

U.S. still seeking explanation for arrest of staff in Turkey: ambassador

U.S. Ambassador to Turkey John Bass speaks during a meeting with media members in Ankara, Tukey, October 11, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

By Tulay Karadeniz and Gulsen Solaker

ANKARA (Reuters) – The United States is still seeking an explanation from Ankara for the detention of staff at U.S. missions in Turkey which led Washington to stop issuing visas and triggered a diplomatic crisis, the U.S. ambassador said on Wednesday.

Ambassador John Bass said the decision to suspend granting visas was not taken lightly, but the detentions indicated a breakdown in communication between the two NATO allies, whose relations have come under increasing strain.

“Unfortunately… the U.S. government still has not received any official communications from the Turkish government about the reasons why our local employees have been detained or arrested,” he told reporters at the U.S. embassy in Ankara.

Washington says two locally employed staff were arrested in Turkey this year. In May, a translator at the consulate in the southern province of Adana was arrested and last week a Drug Enforcement Administration worker was detained in Istanbul.

President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said last week the Istanbul employee, Metin Topuz, had been in contact with a leading suspect in last year’s failed military coup. Turkish media reported similar accusations against the translator.

“The notion that people in our employment are facing or are under suspicion of terrorism charges here, that is a very serious allegation,” Bass said. “It is one we want to take seriously and we want to better understand the ostensible evidence that supports these allegations”.

Since the failed military coup in July last year, in which at least 240 people were killed, more than 50,000 people have been detained and 150,000, including teachers, academics, soldiers and journalists, have been suspended from work.

Some Western allies fear the crackdown shows the country is slipping ever deeper into authoritarian rule under Erdogan.

Ankara says its critics fail to understand the scale of the security challenges in Turkey, which has also faced conflict on its southern borders with Iraq and Syria, and an insurgency in its mainly Kurdish southeast.

ENVOY TARGETED

Erdogan has blamed Bass for the latest dispute, suggesting he acted unilaterally in suspending visa services and declaring that his government no longer considered Bass to be Washington’s envoy and would not hold meetings with him.

The U.S. State Department denied Bass acted alone, saying his actions were coordinated with officials in Washington.

In a sign that Ankara was stepping back from the pledge to exclude Bass, Turkish television channels reported that he met a foreign ministry official later on Wednesday. The ambassador is due to leave Turkey within days to take up a post in Afghanistan.

U.S.-Turkish tensions have risen in recent months over U.S. military support for Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria, considered by Ankara to be an extension of the banned PKK which has waged an insurgency for three decades in southeast Turkey.

Turkey has also pressed, so far in vain, for the United States to extradite Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan who is viewed in Ankara as the mastermind behind the failed coup.

Another source of friction was the U.S. indictment of Turkey’s former economy minister Zafer Caglayan for conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions on Iran. A U.S. court also indicted 15 of Erdogan’s guards after they clashed with protesters during his visit to Washington in May.

In addition to the two detained consulate workers, Turkey is holding a U.S. pastor on charges which Turkish media say include membership of Gulen’s network. Bass called for the release of the Christian missionary, Andrew Brunson, saying he had seen nothing of merit in the charges against him.

He denied reports that Turkish police were trying to speak to another consulate employee. “To the best of our knowledge there are not any outstanding requests from Turkish law enforcement officials for any of our local staff to come in and talk to them,” he said.

(Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz and Gulsen Solaker; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Dominic Evans and Hugh Lawson)

New U.S. ambassador to China says North Korea a top priority

U.S. President Donald Trump (R) holds an umbrella over U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad, former governor of Iowa, as they arrive together aboard Air Force One at Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S. June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

BEIJING (Reuters) – The new U.S. ambassador to China has said that stopping the threat posed by North Korea will be a top priority, along with resolving the U.S.-China trade imbalance, according to a video message to the Chinese people released on Monday.

Terry Branstad, a former Iowa governor, has been described by Beijing as an “old friend” of China. Branstad was confirmed on May 22 as President Donald Trump’s new ambassador to China but his arrival date has yet to be announced.

“Resolving the bilateral trade imbalance, stopping the North Korea threat, and expanding people-to-people ties will be my top priorities,” Branstad said in the video message, which was released on a popular Chinese video-streaming platform.

Trump has placed high hopes on China and its president, Xi Jinping, exerting greater influence on North Korea, although he said last week Chinese efforts to rein in the reclusive North’s nuclear and missile programs had failed.

China’s foreign ministry regularly says that Beijing is doing all that it can with regard to North Korea by implementing United Nations Security Council sanctions, while also pushing for greater dialogue to reduce tensions.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he had pressed China to ramp up economic and political pressure on North Korea during his meeting with top diplomat Yang Jiechi in Washington last week.

“We face many of the same challenges. A strong U.S.-China relationship can contribute to solutions,” Branstad said in the video, without giving details about how he hoped to work with China.

Branstad also recounted his three decades of engagement with China, from his first visit there in 1984 to hosting Xi, then a county-level Communist Party leader, in Iowa in 1985, and then again in 2012 when Xi was vice president.

Trump pledged during his campaign to take a tough stance on Chinese trade practices deemed unfair to the United States, but his rhetoric softened after a friendlier-than-expected meeting with Xi in Florida in April.

Shortly after their meeting, Trump said he had told Xi that China would get a better trade deal if it worked to rein in the North. China is neighboring North Korea’s lone major ally.

The United States ran a trade deficit of $347 billion with China last year, U.S. Treasury figures show.

(This story corrects date of ambassador’s confirmation to May 22, not May 24, paragraph 2)

(Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Paul Tait)

Malaysia expels North Korean ambassador after Kim Jong Nam murder

North Korean Ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol speaks during a news conference at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia on Saturday expelled the North Korean ambassador to the country, declaring him “persona non grata” and asking the envoy to leave Malaysia within 48 hours.

The move comes nearly three weeks after Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was murdered at Kuala Lumpur’s airport with a toxic nerve agent.

U.S. and South Korean officials have said he was killed by agents of the North Korean regime.

Kang Chol, North Korea’s ambassador to Malaysia, said last month his country “cannot trust” Malaysia’s handling of the probe, and also accused the country of “colluding with outside forces” in a veiled reference to bitter rival South Korea.

Malaysian foreign minister Anifah Haji Aman said in a statement on Saturday that Malaysia had demanded an apology from the ambassador for his comments, but none was forthcoming.

“Malaysia will react strongly against any insults made against it or any attempt to tarnish its reputation,” Anifah said.

(Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi and Angie Teo; Editing by Alexander Smith)

Russian envoy to United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, dies in New York

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin addresses members of the U.N. Security Council during a meeting about the Ukraine situation, at the U.N. headquarters in New York

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, died suddenly at work in New York on Monday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

The ministry gave no details on the circumstances of his death but offered condolences to his relatives and said the diplomat had died one day before his 65th birthday.

“The outstanding Russian diplomat passed away at his work post,” it said.

Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general’s office, said: “He has been such a regular presence here that I am actually quite stunned. Our thoughts go to his family, to his friends and to his government.”

Churkin was a pugnacious defender of Russian policy, notably its intensive bombing of the Syrian city of Aleppo last year to crush rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad.

When then-U.S. envoy to the U.N. Samantha Power accused Syria, Russia and Iran last year of bearing responsibility for atrocities there, Churkin said she was acting like Mother Teresa and forgetting her own country’s track record in the Middle East.

(Reporting by Jack Stubbs; Editing by Gareth Jones and Mark Trevelyan)

U.S. ambassador at U.N. says Trump supports two-state solution

US Ambassador to United Nations Nikki Haley

By Ned Parker

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Thursday the United States still supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a day after President Donald Trump suggested he is open to new ways to achieve peace.

“First of all, the two-state solution is what we support. Anybody that wants to say the United States does not support the two-state solution – that would be an error,” Haley told reporters at the United Nations.

“We absolutely support the two-state solution but we are thinking out of the box as well: which is what does it take to bring these two sides to the table; what do we need to have them agree on.”

Haley’s comments came after Trump said on Wednesday that he was open to ideas beyond a two-state solution, the longstanding bedrock of Washington and the international community’s policy for a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

“I’m looking at two states and one state, and I like the one both parties like,” Trump told a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “I can live with either one.”

Trump said that the United States would work toward peace but said he was leaving it up to the parties themselves ultimately to decide on the terms of any agreement. He said such a deal would require compromises from both Israelis and Palestinians.

Trump’s announcement appeared to loosen the main tenet of U.S. Middle Eastern policy dating back three administrations and stunned the international community, which has crafted it diplomacy based on the premise of a Palestinian state co-existing alongside Israel.

Haley also echoed Trump in her remarks Thursday, stressing that a peace deal was not for Washington to impose but could only come from the parties themselves.

“The solution to what will bring peace in the Middle East is going to come from the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority,” Haley said. “The United States is just there to support the process.”

Haley, a Republican who previously served as South Carolina governor, also criticized the United Nations and the Security Council on Thursday for what she called a bias against Israel.

She described the day’s scheduled Security Council meeting on the Middle East as “focused on criticizing Israel, the one true democracy in the Middle East.”

Haley said the United States would not support any U.N. resolutions like the one approved by the Security Council in December calling for an end to Israeli settlement building, that passed only after the administration of former President Barack Obama chose not to wield its veto.

“I am here to say the United States will not turn a blind eye to this anymore,” Haley said. “I am here to emphasize that the United States is determined to stand up to the U.N.’s anti-Israel bias.”

French and British diplomats also repeated their longstanding support of the policy, in a show of how Trump’s remarks on Wednesday had caused confusion.

“The UK continues to believe that the best solution for peace in the Middle East is the two-state solution,” said British ambassador to the United Nations, Matthew Rycroft.

On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had warned during a visit to Cairo that was no viable way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict other than the establishment of a Palestinian state co-existing alongside Israel.

(Reporting by Ned Parker; Editing by Dan Grebler and Lisa Shumaker)

Trump nominee for Israel ambassador heckled, questioned at Senate

David Friedman possible U.S. ambassador for Israel heckled in Senate

By Doina Chiacu

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s nominee to be U.S. ambassador to Israel faced repeated heckling at a Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday before he apologized for his stinging criticism of liberal American Jews and promised to be less inflammatory in an official capacity.

David Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer Trump has called a longtime friend and trusted adviser, has supported Jewish settlement building and advocated the annexation of the West Bank, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war.

His nomination has been fiercely opposed by some American Jewish groups.

Friedman repeatedly expressed regret for likening liberal American Jews to Jewish prisoners who worked for the Nazis during the Holocaust, telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in his opening statement, “I regret the use of such language.”

Trump is following through on a promised shift in U.S. policy toward Israel after years of friction between former President Barack Obama and Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

Flanked by Netanyahu at a White House news conference, Trump on Wednesday dropped a U.S. commitment to a two-state solution, long a bedrock of its Middle East policy, even as he urged Netanyahu to curb settlement construction.

The heated opposition to Friedman’s nomination erupted in the hearing room as Friedman began his opening statement, with several hecklers including a man who held up the Palestinian flag and shouted about Palestinian claims to the land of Israel.

“My grandfather was exiled,” the man said before being escorted out of the room. “Palestinians will always be in Palestine!”

Democratic senators pressed Friedman on incendiary comments he made including calling Obama an anti-Semite and Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer, who is Jewish, an appeaser.

“Frankly the language you have regularly used against those who disagree with your views has me concerned about your preparedness to enter the world of diplomacy,” Ben Cardin, the senior Democrat on the committee, told the nominee.

Friedman acknowledged using overheated rhetoric as part of his passionate support for the Jewish state, which has included financial support of Jewish settlements built on land claimed by Palestinians. He promised to avoid inflammatory comments as a U.S. diplomat.

He told Cardin, “There is no excuse. If you want me to rationalize it or justify it, I cannot. These were hurtful words and I deeply regret them.”

Cardin, citing Friedman’s criticism of Schumer as having done the “worst appeasement of terrorists since Munich,” retorted that those words were “beyond hurtful.”

“We need a steady hand in the Middle East, not a bomb thrower,” admonished Tom Udall, another Democrat.

‘RECANT EVERY SINGLE STRONGLY HELD BELIEF’

Under questioning, Friedman tried to soften his positions on a number of hot-button regional issues.

While expressing skepticism of a two-state solution calling for the creation of Palestinian state next to Israel, he acknowledged it was the best option for peace. He said he did not personally support Israeli annexation of the West Bank and agreed with Trump’s view that settlement activity “may not be helpful” to achieving peace.

“You’re here today having to recant every single strongly held belief that you’ve expressed, almost,” the committee’s Republican chairman, Bob Corker, noted.

Friedman is likely to be confirmed by the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham acknowledged that Friedman has said things he did not agree with but backed the nominee as qualified, experienced and passionate.

“I believe he is the right guy at the right time. He’ll be Trump’s voice. Trump won the election,” Graham said.

Five former U.S. ambassadors to Israel from both Republican and Democratic administrations urged the Senate in a letter to reject Friedman, saying that he holds “extreme, radical positions” on issues such as Jewish settlements and the two-state solution.

“We believe him to be unqualified for the position,” wrote the former ambassadors including Thomas Pickering, Edward Walker, Daniel Kurtzer, James Cunningham and William Harrop.

While campaigning for the presidency, Trump pledged to switch the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv, where it has been located for 68 years, to Jerusalem, all but enshrining the city as Israel’s capital regardless of international objections.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; editing by Frances Kerry and Cynthia Osterman)

Trump’s U.N. nominee to blast world body over Israel: testimony

Nikki Haley to-be amassador under Donald Trump for United Nations speaks for Israel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations will blast the world body over its treatment of Israel at her Senate confirmation hearing, according to prepared testimony seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

“Nowhere has the UN’s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than in its bias against our close ally Israel,” Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said in the opening remarks for her appearance on Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“Any honest assessment also finds an institution that is often at odds with American national interests and American taxpayers,” the speech says.

In the remarks, Haley offered some praise for UN activities, such as health and food programs that have saved millions of lives, weapons monitoring and some peacekeeping missions, in something of a departure from Trump, who has disparaged the United Nations.

Other Trump national security nominees, notably his choices for Secretary of State, former Exxon Mobil Corp chairman Rex Tillerson, and Secretary of Defense, retired Marine General James Mattis, have also broken from the Republican president-elect in testimony before the Senate.

Noting that the United States contributes 22 percent of the UN budget, far more than any other country, Haley asked, “Are we getting what we pay for?” She promised to work with U.S. lawmakers to pursue what she described as “seriously needed change” at the United Nations.

Some Republican lawmakers, led by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, have threatened to cut U.S. funding for the United Nations after the Security Council adopted a Dec. 23 resolution demanding an end to settlement building by Israel.

Graham will introduce Haley at her hearing.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Peter Cooney and Lisa Shumaker)