New US envoy to UN vows to 'show our strength'

South Carolina Gov Nikki Haley speaks at the Federalist Society's National Lawyers Convention in Washington. (Cliff Owen, AP)
South Carolina Gov Nikki Haley speaks at the Federalist Society's National Lawyers Convention in Washington. (Cliff Owen, AP)

United Nations - Washington's new ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, vowed Friday to show US strength in global affairs and delivered a blunt warning to opponents of President Donald Trump's policies.

"For those who don't have our backs: we're taking names," Haley told reporters at she arrived at UN headquarters for her first meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

"We will make points to respond to that accordingly."

"Our goal with the administration is to show value at the UN, and the way that we will show value is to show our strength, show our voice, have the backs of our allies and make sure that our allies have our back as well," she said.

The former South Carolina governor made her first remarks at UN headquarters before presenting her diplomatic credentials to Guterres.

Their first meeting is expected to be clouded by reports of a draft executive order being prepared at the White House that could deprive the United Nations of billions of dollars in US financial support.

The United States is by far the UN's biggest financial contributor, providing 22 percent of its operating budget and funding 28 percent of peacekeeping missions, which currently cost $7.8 billion annually.

The 45-year-old daughter of Indian immigrants said she was ready to push for an overhaul of the United Nations and made clear there would be cuts.

"This is a time of strength. This is a time of action. This is a time of getting things done," Haley said.

"Everything that is working, we are going to make it better. Everything that is not working we are going to try and fix. Everything that seems to be obsolete and not necessary, we're going to do away with," she said.

A change at the UN 

In his pledge to pursue an "America First" foreign policy, Trump has dismissed the United Nations as "just a club for people to get together and have a good time."

Relations with Trump became tense after the Security Council adopted a resolution demanding Israel end settlement construction.

The former US administration declined to use its veto to block the measure, prompting Trump to promise that "things will be different" at the United Nations under his administration.

Tough-talking Haley echoed that stance.

"You are going to see a change in the way we do business. It's no longer about working harder but working smarter," she said.

Met Secretary-General

The ambassador then held a brief 20-minute meeting with Guterres who was "delighted to meet her," said UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

"It was an introductory meeting and the start of engagement with the new US administration," he said.

Guterres, who took over from Ban Ki-moon on January 1, is also pushing for changes at the United Nations to improve its ability to respond to crises.

UN officials are eager to engage with the new US envoy on the way forward on a range of issues from key appointments to top UN posts to faltering peace efforts in Syria, Yemen and South Sudan.

Haley's appointment was welcomed by many diplomats who notably praised her for her strong stance against racism as South Carolina governor, when she ordered that the Confederate flag be pulled down from the state capitol.

Her lack of diplomatic experience however is expected to be a challenge as she confronts a string of complex issues on the agenda of the Security Council, where the United States is one of the five veto-wielding powers.

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