Sunday, November 06, 2011

US Could Defund Nuclear Watchdog Over Palestine Vote

The vote to accept the Palestinian Authority as a member of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has already cost the agency $80 million a year in U.S. funding.

Now further moves by the Palestinians to seek membership in other U.N. agencies could lead to America’s defunding of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which plays a key role in monitoring nuclear proliferation in Iran and other nations. UNESCO voted overwhelmingly on Oct. 31 to approve the Palestinian Authority’s membership. The United States responded by cutting off all funding for the agency, as required by laws enacted in the 1990s barring American funding of any agency that grants membership to the Palestinians.

But after the UNESCO vote, Palestinian diplomat Ibrahim Khraishi said the Palestinians will seek membership in 16 other U.N. agencies. If those U.S. laws are applied to the agencies, they would all likely lose their American funding.

Those agencies could include the IAEA and the World Health Organization, which coordinates international efforts to deal with public health threats.

The Palestinians could also gain membership in the World Intellectual Property Organization, which seeks to curb piracy of American movies and software, triggering U.S. defunding.

“All of this puts the United States in a bind,” the Christian Science Monitor observed.

“Though the State Department said it wants to continue to work with UNESCO, even as it cuts funding, it’s hard to see how.

“The Obama administration is expected to reach out to Congress to find a way both to continue to fund UNESCO and give the U.S. government flexibility if Palestine is recognized as a member by other, more important U.N. organizations. Whether it will get very far in that appeal is another matter.”

Palestinian Authority foreign minister Riyad Malki reportedly said on Thursday that the PA has decided not to pursue admission to additional agencies “at this time,” and would instead focus on its bid for full U.N. recognition.

CS Monitor

But PA health minister Fathi Abu Moghli has said an application for membership in the World Health Organization was being prepared.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement that it was “smart” for the United States to withhold funding from UNESCO.

She also drew attention to UNESCO’s election on Wednesday of Saudi Arabia, Cuba, and “other intolerant regimes” to the agency’s Executive Board.

“Just days after admitting ‘Palestine’ and advancing the Palestinian leadership’s anti-Israel, anti-peace scheme, UNESCO has once again welcomed the Cuban dictatorship and other pariah states with open arms, disregarding their human rights violations,” Ros-Lehtinen said.

“Cuba and Saudi Arabia will keep working with other repressive regimes on the executive board such as China, Syria, Belarus, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, and Vietnam to advance an anti-American, anti-Israel agenda.”

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