Trump threatens to cut aid to UN members over Jerusalem

US president lashes out ahead of UN emergency special session on Jerusalem

WASHINGTON/UNITED NATIONS US President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that vote in favour of a draft United Nations (UN) resolution calling for the US to withdraw its decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

"They take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars, and then they vote against us. Well, we are watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We will save a lot. We do not care," he said.

The 193-member UN General Assembly was scheduled to hold a rare emergency special session yesterday, at the request of Arab and Muslim countries, to vote on a draft resolution, which the US vetoed on Monday in the 15-member UN Security Council. The remaining 14 members voted in favour of the Egyptian-drafted resolution.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley on Tuesday warned that Mr Trump had asked her to "report back on those countries who voted against us".

Several senior diplomats said her warning was unlikely to change many votes in the General Assembly, where such direct and public threats are rare.

Some diplomats brushed off the warning as more likely aimed at impressing US voters.

According to figures from the US government's aid agency USAID, the US last year provided US$13 billion (S$17.4 billion) in economic and military assistance to countries in sub-Saharan Africa and US$1.6 billion to states in East Asia and Oceania.

It provided some US$13 billion to Middle Eastern and North African countries, US$6.7 billion South and Central Asian countries, US$1.5 billion to states in Europe and Eurasia and US$2.2 billion to Western Hemisphere countries, according to USAID.

Mr Miroslav Lajcak, General Assembly president, declined to comment on Mr Trump's remarks but said: "It is the right and responsibility of member states to express their views."

Mr Trump said: "I like the message that Nikki sent yesterday at the United Nations, for all those nations that take our money and then they vote against us at the Security Council, or they vote against us potentially at the assembly."


He had abruptly reversed decades of US policy this month when he recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital, generating outrage from Palestinians and the Arab world and concern among Washington's Western allies.

Mr Trump also plans to move the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

The draft UN resolution calls on all countries to refrain from establishing diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.

A senior Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, described Mrs Haley's letter as "poor tactics" at the UN "but pretty good for Haley 2020 or Haley 2024", referring to the speculation that Mrs Haley might run for higher office.

"She is not going to win any votes in the General Assembly or the Security Council, but she is going to win some votes in the US population," the Western diplomat said. - REUTERS

Some companies announce worker bonuses after US tax cut

NEW YORK AT&T and Boeing were among the large US companies that announced new spending on their workers on Wednesday after Congress approved a sweeping tax cut.

AT&T plans to give US$1,000 (S$1,300) bonuses to more than 200,000 workers and will issue the cheques over the holidays if US President Donald Trump signs the bill before Christmas.

It also said it plans to invest an additional US$1 billion next year due to the bill.

"This tax reform will drive economic growth and create good-paying jobs," AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson said.

The handful of announcements came after the House of Representatives approved the US$1.5 trillion tax overhaul, sending the measure to Mr Trump to sign into law.

Boeing announced US$300 million in additional spending that includes funds for workforce training and to upgrade facilities to the "workplace for the future".

Meanwhile, Fifth Third Bancorp said it would boost its minimum wage for all employees to US$15 an hour and distribute a one-time bonus of US$1,000 to more than 13,500 employees.