UNITED NATIONS, N. Y (Jul. 29)
The Arab refugee problem, the future of the United Nations Emergency Force which stands guard to prevent Egyptian military acts against Israel, and the elimination of all religious intolerance — including religious oppression against Soviet Jews — loomed large here today as the provisional agenda of the next regular session of the General Assembly was made public. That session, the 20th in United Nations history, is scheduled to convene September 21.
The future of the U.N. Emergency Force — which is stationed in the Gaza area on the Israel border and at Sharm el-Sheikh, overlooking the Gulf of Akaba — is due to be examined, along with other issues, first by a special Committee of 33 members meeting this month for adoption of a final report, then at the resumed Assembly session opening September 1, finally, at the regular session scheduled to open September 21.
The Arab refugee problem was shunted aside at the last Assembly, because no votes were taken on any issues. When the problem comes before the next regular session, therefore, it could touch off one of the most bitter debates heard here in many years. There are two reasons for that expectation. One is that the mandate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, which should have expired June 30, 1965, has been extended to next June 30 — and must be either extended again, curtailed, or otherwise disposed of this year.
The United States Congress, which has been for more than 15 years supplying 70 percent of the UNRWA budget, has insisted that a new look be taken at the Arab refugee problem. The Arab states, on the other hand, have, since the issue was last discussed here fully in 1963, also formulated new demands, foremost among which is their open threat to organize the Arab refugees into an army to “liberate Palestine.”
The forthcoming Assembly may receive a supplementary report from UNRWA. showing that many thousands of so-called refugees are receiving UNRWA aid through fraud. There may be a move by a number of U.N. member states to try to force the Arab states and Israel to negotiate face-to-face on the refugee problem. All these complications may make this years Arab refugee debate the most explosive since the establishment of UNRWA in 1950.
Various human rights issues have been given seven distinct places on the 97- item agenda. Perhaps the most touchy of these is a recommendation by the United Nations Economic and Social Council that the U.N. adopt a declaration and an international convention “on the elimination of all forms of religious intolerance.” Through many parliamentary procedures, the USSR has been fighting the adoption of such a declaration and convention for many years, employing various delaying tactics from year to year. The issue is certain to flare here dynamically at the forthcoming regular assembly, because the Soviet Union fears that elimination of religious oppressions would face the Moscow Government with a choice of either defying a U.N. move openly or removing the oppressions suffered by Russian Jews in the fields of religion and culture.
Other human rights issues on the agenda would call for curbing “manifestations of racial prejudice and national and religious intolerance”; adoption of specific steps “to accelerate the promotion of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”; and the adoption of two international covenants on human rights, items pending here for 11 years. All of these items are unwelcome to various member states, but the most powerful of the opponents is the Soviet Union.