Palestinians should defer agency bids - Ban

2011-11-03 21:19

Cannes - Palestinian efforts to join UN agencies beyond its cultural arm are "not beneficial for anybody" and could lead to cuts in funding sure to affect millions of people, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon warned on Thursday.

In an Associated Press interview, the UN chief reiterated the world body's support for a viable, independent Palestinian state - but lamented the Palestinian Authority's efforts to join UN affiliates before the UN itself.

Ban also expressed hope for greater participation of women and youths in Libya's future government, and praised a new Arab League deal with Syria aiming to end President Bashar Assad's bloody crackdown on protesters.

Potential funding woes for UN agencies were high in Ban's mind.

The Palestinians have asked the Security Council to grant them full membership in the United Nations, and a vote is tentatively set for November 11 - but the United States, a stalwart Israeli ally, has vowed to veto the request.

Since their application in September, the Palestinians have sought to join other UN agencies in which the US doesn't have veto power on membership issues.

US law bars contributions to organisations that grant membership to territories that aren't internationally recognised states.

The United States and Canada are now cutting off funds for Unesco because the Paris-based agency - stripping it of about one-quarter of its total funding.

The Palestinian Authority plans to apply for membership in 16 other UN specialised agencies - even though Ban has repeatedly pressed Palestinians to wait for the UN Security Council decision.

"I believe this is not beneficial for Palestine and not beneficial for anybody," he said, noting that UN agencies need both financial and political support.

"When an organisation is not properly functioning because of a lack of resources, you have to think about the millions and millions of people who are being impacted and affected," he said.

Ban said he was "asking and urging member states" to make up for the shortfall in funding for Unesco and other agencies.

One top Palestinian leader shot back at Ban, suggesting the UN chief should lean on US lawmakers.

"I think it would be easier for Mr Ban Ki-Moon to ask the Congress to change their laws," Saeb Erekat said. "I don't think Palestine's admittance to any of these agencies will bring harm."

Promise

Fresh off a trip to Libya, Ban said he pointed out to leaders of the National Transitional Council, which took over after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year regime, that only two women were on its council.

"In the process of drafting legislation and constitutions, and making a new Libya, it is crucially important that womens' rights and opportunities in social, economic and political fields should be promoted," Ban said.

As for Syria, the UN chief said his "sincere advice and appeal" to President Bashar Assad was to quickly implement his pledges under a deal with the Arab League announced on Wednesday.

Under the plan, Damascus agreed to stop violence against protesters, release all political prisoners and begin a dialogue with the opposition within two weeks.

It also agreed to allow journalists, rights groups and Arab League representatives to monitor the situation in the country.

Activists in Syria said at least 20 people died on Thursday after government tanks fired upon Homs, a city at the centre of the nearly eight-month uprising against Assad's regime.

"He promised to the League of Arab States that this violence - violent measures of addressing these demonstrations - will stop. I hope he will keep his promise," Ban said of the Wednesday deal.

Assad hasn't kept his word before: He told Ban by telephone in August that military operations in Syria had ended, and the bloodshed has continued since then.

- AP
Read more on:    unesco  |  muammar gaddafi  |  ban ki-moon  |  bashar assad  |  palestine  |  syria  |  libya  |  uprisings  |  middle east peace
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