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The prospect of longtime United Nations-basher Sen. Jesse Helms addressing the United Nations Security Council might send a shudder up some spines. But, Helms' appearance before that group was not as bad as some might think and, in fact, could be considered a success.

The meeting was, well, diplomatic. In the first-ever address by a U.S. lawmaker to the Security Council Helms said, "If we are to have a new beginning, we must endeavor to understand each other better." Helms also told the council that the United States would withdraw if the United Nations sought "to impose its presumed authority on the American people." The senator has long accused the United Nations of trying to become a coercive world government. He has claimed that the group is incompetent.

. . . Helms raised some eyebrows when he complained that the United States spent billions of dollars on the United Nations. Yes, the United States does spend a lot of money. But, the United States is a wealthy country. The contribution of, say, Bangladesh -- although smaller than that of the United States -- is a much greater monetary sacrifice.

But Helms makes a good point: "The money we spend on the United Nations is not charity. To the contrary, it is an investment -- an investment from which the American people rightly expect a return."

In the end, Helms said he was glad to talk to people he had never met and said the disagreements "would all work out." . . .

So, the United Nations has met one of it harshest critics. And the critic has met with his once-faceless adversary. And both came away with a little more understanding of the other.

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