US cuts off UNESCO funding after Palestinian vote

Updated: 2011-11-01 01:55


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WASHINGTON - The United States said on Monday it had stopped funding UNESCO, the UN cultural agency, following its vote to grant the Palestinians full membership.

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters the United States had no choice but to halt funding because of longstanding US law, saying Washington would not make a planned $60 million transfer that was due in November.

Palestine on Monday was admitted to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a full member in a vote at the 193-member UN branch's general conference in Paris.

Palestinian National Authority has gained 107 votes for its membership bid in UNESCO with 14 countries against, UNESCO announced after the vote. Another 52 countries abstained, the organization said.

The voting made UNESCO to be the first UN agency accepting the Palestinian National Authority as a full member since Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas applied for formal UN membership at the UN General Assembly on Sep. 23. The UN Security Council has decided to discuss the matter in November.

Earlier in October, UNESCO's Executive Board recommended accepting the Palestinian Authority as a full member state and agreed to vote on the issue during its 26th General Conference, which opened in Paris on October 25 and will last till November 10.

France is among the majority that voted for Palestine's membership, but Israel as well as the United States clearly opposed the Palestinian bid both in the United Nations and in the UN cultural branch.

The US delegates have threatened to withdraw its share of funds financing the UNESCO if the Palestinian admission is accepted. Israeli envoy made the same remarks ahead of the voting but was said to be resigned to the result.

UNESCO depends on the United States for 22 percent of its annual budget, about $70 million a year, according to a previous report by the New York Times. Israel's contribution accounts around 3 percent of the organization's annual budget, according to other reports.