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Friday, May 05, 2006

Cleaning up UNRWA

HaAretz is reporting this evening that Congressman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, has asked UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to conduct a formal probe into the operations of the UN Relief and Works Agency in Yehuda, Shomron and Gaza prior to the June 30 scheduled renewal of its mandate.

In a letter to Annan, Lantos wrote:
"My concern is that, for too long, UNRWA has been part of the problem, rather than the solution, in the Middle East.

"However initially well-intentioned, UNRWA camps have fostered a culture of anger and dependency that undermines both regional peace and the wellbeing of the camps' inhabitants."
The California congressman expressed his concern "that UNRWA officials have not only failed to prevent their camps from becoming centers of terrorist activity, but have also failed to report these developments to you."

Lantos concluded that "it is difficult to escape the painful conclusion that UNRWA, directly or indirectly, is complicit in terrorism."

Lantos and Representative Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), a member of the House appropriations subcommittee that deals with UNRWA, have also introduced legislation that would require the president to certify that the U.N. agency that administers relief to Palestinian refugees is subject to comprehensive, independent audits and “does not knowingly provide employment, refuge, assistance or support of any kind to members of foreign terrorist organizations.”

The bill may be brought up for consideration as early as next week, and is likely to pass.

The United States contributed $108 million to UNRWA in 2005, and the Bush administration has said that it will increase its contributions to the agency as a means of bypassing the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.


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