Geneva (May. 19)
The World Health Organization (WHO) assembly was scheduled to begin debate today on an Arab-sponsored resolution condemning Israel for allegedly poor health conditions of the Arab population in the occupied territories. The Arab states suffered a setback yesterday when the assembly voted to postpone action on their demand that the WHO regional office in the Middle East be transferred from Alexandria to Amman, Jordan.
The Arab rejectionist states have been pressing for a transfer since last year as a means of further isolating Egypt because of its peace treaty with Israel. In the course of the current debate, Saudi Arabia claimed that 19 of the 23 countries in the region were unable to utilize the services of the gional office because they have no diplomatic relations with Egypt.
The consensus vote to postpone action was the second defeat sustained by the rejectionist bloc since the WHO annual conference opened. An Arab effort to reject Israel’s credentials and thereby bar it from the conference failed to come up for a vote earlier this month, after the African states made it clear that they were opposed.
The transfer of the WHO office is opposed by the agency’s Secretariate because such a move would cost about $30 million. Iran spoke against the transfer on grounds that “another move might be necessary” if Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel. The Arab states themselves were divided over a new site for the office but finally agreed on Amman even though the Jordanian capital was said to lack the proper facilities for a regional office.