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French UN Envoy Calls for Return of Arabs to West Bank in Greater Numbers

The French representative to the United Nations today called for the return of Arab refugees to the West Bank in greater numbers than heretofore. Armand Berard, speaking during the continuing discussion in the Special Political Committee on the report of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), said his Government attached great importance to the use of refugee camps on the West Bank to alleviate the hardships that winter will bring. He noted that only 14,000 of the 400,000 Arabs who fled the West Bank in the wake of the June, 1967 Arab-Israel war had returned to their homes and camps under the repatriation plan adopted by Israel in July, 1967.

Mr. Berard also noted that the commissioner-general of UNRWA, Laurence Michelmore, had said that his agency could provide better relief for the refugees if a Security Council resolution calling for their return was implemented. Mr. Berard said the tragedy of the Palestine refugees was given an added dimension by the 1967 war. The successive military actions unleashed after that war “aggravated the situation and contributed to the intensification of the exodus of Palestine refugees from the occupied area,” he said.

Mr. Berard noted that UNRWA faced a deficit of $3.2 million in 1968 and $5 million in 1969. He said his delegation was against having the administrative costs of UNRWA paid out of the regular UN budget because such a procedure would make the budget mandatory for all member states, while the original 1949 resolution of the General Assembly establishing the refugee agency envisaged financing by voluntary contributions. The French diplomat said his Government favored extension of UNRWA’s mandate beyond its June 30, 1969 expiration date “as a humanitarian necessity. “The Political Committee agreed to permit a delegation representing the Palestine Liberation Organization to be heard without implying recognition of that organization as “representing the people of Palestine.” The PLO was so described in a letter signed by the representatives of 14 Arab countries petitioning for the right of its spokesmen to be heard.

Of the $629 million spent by UNRWA since its inception in 1950 to care for refugees of the 1948 Middle East war, the United States has donated $433 million – 69 percent of the total. All the Arab countries have contributed only 2.6 percent of the total, and Israel has contributed about one-quarter of one percent. For 1968, the Arab contributions have risen to three percent and Israel’s to 1.6 percent. The Soviet Union has contributed nothing.

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