The record needs to be set straight on two items concerning the United Nations. We raise them because they have injected a sour note just as the new Reagan administration is being launched. Inasmuch as President Reagan is not disposed to the UN to begin with, it would be unfortunate if recent press reports reinforced this attitude.
The first concerns an ABC-TV documentary program on the hostage saga in which it is alleged that UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim panicked during his mission to Iran and reneged on an agreement with the US government to propose the formation of a UN commission to look into Iranian grievances at the same time as the hostages were freed. Instead, the charge goes, Mr. Waldheim accepted a proposal for freeing of the captives afterm the commission was set up.
There is no basis for the allegations. If they were true, the United States two months later would hardly have permitted a UN commission to go to Tehran. The commission in fact came close to succeeding and failed only because President Bani-Sadr and Foreign Minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh were unable to sell the proposal to the militant Islamic fundamentalists. Further, President Carter sent a note to Mr. Waldheim before leaving office expressing gratitude for the latter's "tireless efforts" on behalf of the imprisoned Americans. US negotiator Warren Christopher similarly praised the Secretary-General's role.
The second item is a recent newspaper report concerning a UN inquiry into charges that high UN officials have been giving out jobs or promotions in exchange for loans. We cannot say there may not have been improprieties committed. But the charges have not been substantiated and there is no evidence of large-scale wrongdoing. Our concern is that the public might wrongly be left with the impression of scandal at the UN. The fact is that no sizable case of corruption has been found at the UN since its founding -- an extraordinary and praiseworthy history for an international organization with as many as 14,000 employees. Few member governments can claim such a record.
This is no beating of the drum for the UN. It is not to close our eyes to mismanagement, bureaucratic confusion, ineptitude, or other problems which may sometimes afflict the Secretariat's operation (not to mention the political weaknesses of the organization in general). But the public -- and the Reagan administration -- should beware of letting tendentious reports color their perspective. The UN is not beyond criticism, but it certainly deserves fair and balanced j udgment.