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U.S. Cuts Funds to Food Agency, Citing Its Backing of the PLO

The United States has sharply cut its contribution to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, in part because the organization adopted a resolution backing the Palestine Liberation Organization’s aspirations for statehood.

The U.S. action came in response to a Nov. 29 vote of the FAO’s governing General Conference, which was holding its biennial meetings in Rome.

The FAO body voted 96-2 to cooperate closely with the PLO in providing aid to Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But facing a U.S. threat to cut off funds, the General Conference stopped short of upgrading the PLO’s representative status within the organization.

The United States and Israel were the only countries to vote against the resolution, while 14 countries abstained.

The United States officially signaled its displeasure with the FAO action, in a letter last week to Edouard Saouma, the FAO director general.

John Bolton, assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs, wrote that the United States would pay just $18 million of its $143 million in unpaid assessments, just enough to preserve its voting rights in the U.N. agency.

The United States’ most recent budget assessment, for 1989, was $61.4 million, more than 20 percent of the FAO’s overall $267.6 million budget that year.

CRITICIZED ISRAELI POLICIES

Fran Westner, a spokeswoman for the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs, said adoption of the FAO resolution was one of four reasons why the United States decided to withhold most of its 1989 assessment.

The other three reasons were that the FAO ignored concern from various countries that its budget was “excessive”; did not allow the North American bloc to seek election to a key FAO office; and did not heed U.S. calls for agency reform, she said.

Congress last year adopted a law that bars U.S. funding to any U.N. agency that “enhances” the PLO’s membership status. But Westner said it did not apply in this case, because the resolution “didn’t have to do with membership.”

The resolution did say, however, that Israeli policies in the territories “impede the basic requirements for the development of the economy of the occupied Palestinian territory, including the agricultural sector.”

It said that economic development projects should be undertaken in the West Bank and Gaza Strip “in close cooperation” with the PLO.

Following the Nov. 29 vote, State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler remarked that the United States regards the U.N. Relief and Works Agency to be the appropriate means for providing “humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people.”

JTA will not publish a Daily News Bulletin on Monday, Jan. 15, in observance of the Martin Luther King national holiday in the United States.

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