The head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) acknowledged in a report here yesterday that its Siblin Training Center, a vocational school near Beirut, had been misused by the Palestine Liberation Organization which forced military training and indoctrination of 781 students over a period of two years.
Olaf Rydbeck, Commissioner-General of the Vienna-based agency, said this was a blatant violation of the school’s regulations and purpose and announced that its principal has been suspended and that disciplinary action has been taken against him and other faculty members.
Rydbeck’s report essentially confirmed charges by Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, in an address to the UN General Assembly last month, that UNRWA had become “a tool to preserve the refugee camps in which idle people were subjected to incitement and coercion in the service of terrorist organizations. ” Rydbeck had vigorously denied the charges at the time.
U.S. REACTION TO THE REPORT
One immediate reaction to his disclosure was the reported demand by the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Jeane Kirkpatrick, that the U.S. withhold a $15 million donation to UNRWA pending a full inquiry. UNRWA was established 35 years ago specifically to aid Palestinian refugees in camps in Israel and other countries. It has been financed by donations from UN member-states.
According to Rydbeck’s report, the Siblin Center allowed armed PLO instructors to live in the school facilities, store arms in a basement that was made off limits to UN employes and sent radio messages from it. In addition, the PLO conducted military classes for young men and women studying trades. The report noted that diplomas were withheld from vocational graduates until they had served a year with the PLO.
Rydbeck’s report said “The agency is satisfied that its training center in Siblin was misused. The center’s premises were evidently used to provide systematic military training to the center’s students,” an obvious violation of UNRWA regulations.
The report added: “It was clear for around two years prior to 1982 a parallel program of organized military training by the PLO has been carried out within the center’s premises which is totally incompatible with the agency’s status and functions.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.