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U.S. halts financial contributions to UNESCO over admission of Palestine


08:28, November 01, 2011

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. government announced on Monday it has halted making financial contributions to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) after the latter admitted the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) as a full member.

"We were to have made a 60-million-dollar payment to UNESCO in November and we will not be making that payment," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at the daily news briefing.

Nuland made the remarks in response to the vote at the 193- member UNESCO's general conference in Paris, France, which accepts the PNA as a full member. The PNA gained 107 votes for its membership bid to join the UNESCO, while 14 countries voted against and 52 others abstained, the UNESCO said after the vote.

UNESCO's move to admit the PNA as a full member was " regrettable, premature", said Nuland.

The move triggers U.S. Congress' restriction on funding to UN bodies which recognize PNA as a state before an Israeli- Palestinian peace deal is reached, she said. The U.S. provides 22 percent of the total financial contributions to the UNESCO.

Earlier Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney also criticized the formal admission of the PNA by the UNESCO as " premature", adding that such move will undermine the Middle East peace process.

"Today's vote at UNESCO to admit the Palestinian (National) Authority as a member is premature and undermines the international community's shared goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East," Carney told reporters.

He added that the move "distracts us from our shared goal of direct negotiations that results in a secure Israel and an independent Palestine living side by side in peace and security."

Carney reiterated that U.S. will only support measures that bring the Palestinians and the Israelis closer to direct negotiations, which are the only way to resolve the differences between them.

The UNESCO is the first UN agency to accept the PNA as a full member since Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas applied for formal UN membership at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 23. The UN Security Council has decided to discuss the matter in November.

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