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UNESCO Admits Palestine, Prompting U.S. Funding Cut


Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas waves to the crowd during a celebration in the West Bank city of Ramallah in September.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas waves to the crowd during a celebration in the West Bank city of Ramallah in September.

The United Nations' cultural agency, UNESCO, has given Palestine full membership of that body, prompting the United States to curb payments to the organization.

The Palestinians' UNESCO bid is part of their quest for statehood, which saw them last month apply for full UN membership.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization voted 107-14, with 52 abstentions, to admit Palestine.

The United States, Canada, and Germany were among those who opposed membership.

The U.S. State Department subsequently announced that Washington, the main contributor to UNESCO's budget, was halting funding to the agency.

Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States would not make a planned $60 million payment that was due in November.

U.S. legislation bans the government from financing any United Nations organization that accepts Palestine as a full member.

Israel's ambassador to UNESCO, Nimrod Barkan, also said his country was considering curbing its contribution to the organization. Barkan called the vote "a tragedy for the idea of UNESCO and a great disservice to international law and chances for peace."

Palestinians meanwhile welcomed the vote. Sabri Saidam, an adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas, said the decision marked a "historic day for Palestinians."

Palestinian Authority government spokesman Ghassan Khatib was quoted by Reuters as saying: "I think the success of the Palestinians to achieve membership in UNESCO is important in terms of the Palestinian attempts to get recognition of Palestine as a state. It's part of the build-up in the Palestinian efforts towards achieving international recognition."

White House spokesman Jay Carney called the decision "premature" and said it undermines the goal of a comprehensive peace deal in the region.

compiled from agency reports

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