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Ban Ki-moon to hold talks with US Congressional leaders

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will travel to Washington tomorrow to hold talks with leaders of the United States Congress on "issues of mutual interest" to the world body and the US, including the Middle East and Sudan.

"This brief visit will allow him to further broaden his contacts with members of Congress," the Secretary-General's Spokesperson, Michele Montas, told reporters today.

In addition to the Middle East and Sudan, Mr. Ban and Congressional leaders are also expected to discuss the relationship between the UN and the US, peacekeeping, UN reform and climate change - which the Secretary-General has recently referred to as the "defining issue of our era."

During his first visit to Washington soon after taking office in January, Mr. Ban called on US President George W. Bush and the country's Congressional leaders to lift their spending cap on the UN peacekeeping budget, warning that if the limit remains then the work of individual operations may be hampered.

He noted that the Congress has imposed a cap so that the US - the largest financial contributor to the UN - pays no more than 25 per cent of expenses for peacekeeping operations.

According to a scale of assessments agreed upon by UN Member States in 2000, the US is required to pay about 27 per cent.

Also holding talks in the US capital is Ibrahim Gambari - appointed by Mr. Ban last month to continue diplomatic initiatives on Myanmar - who has meetings scheduled today and tomorrow at the White House, the US State Department and Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill, Ms. Montas said.