AP Interview: Ban warns Palestinians over agencies

AP News
Posted: Nov 03, 2011 1:25 PM
AP Interview: Ban warns Palestinians over agencies

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

In an Associated Press interview, the U.N. chief reiterated the world body's support for a viable, independent Palestinian state _ but lamented the Palestinian Authority's efforts to join U.N. affiliates before the U.N. 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 U.N. agencies were high in Ban's mind.

The Palestinians have asked the Security Council to grant them full membership in the United Nations _ but the United States, a stalwart Israeli ally, has vowed to veto the request. The Security Council committee on admissions will discuss a report on the Palestinian bid on November 11, but no vote is scheduled.

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

U.S. law bars contributions to organizations that grant membership to territories that aren't internationally recognized states. The United States and Canada are now cutting off funds for UNESCO, stripping it of about one-quarter of its total funding.

The Palestinian Authority plans to apply for membership in 16 other U.N. specialized agencies _ even though Ban has repeatedly pressed Palestinians to wait for the U.N. Security Council decision.

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

"This will have implications for all the agencies of the United Nations," Ban said. The UNESCO admission means Palestinians could automatically gain membership in the U.N. Industrial Development Organization, which aims to lower poverty and help the environment, and the World Intellectual Property Organization, he said.

Ban said he was also concerned about the possible impact of lower funding for the U.N. trade organization, UNCTAD, if Palestinians gain membership there too.

"When an organization 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 U.N chief should lean on U.S. 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."

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

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"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 U.N. 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 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 four people died Thursday after government tanks fired upon Homs, a city at the center 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.


Amy Teibel in Jerusalem and Elizabeth A. Kennedy in Beirut contributed to this report.