The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has sharply criticised the United Nations.

Speaking to journalists in Washington, Ms Rice said the UN must be overhauled to survive as a vital force in international politics. 

Her comments were among the strongest yet voiced by a senior member of the Bush administration.

Relations between Washington and the UN have been strained since the UN Security Council failed to back the US-led war in Iraq.

The criticism of the world body comes at a time when it is embroiled in scandal over corruption in the oil-for-food programme in Iraq and sexual abuse by peacekeepers in Africa.