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The Mideast

U.N. Postponing $38 Million 'Bucks for Bashar' Syrian Aid Plan

Mideast Bashar Assad

April 15: Syrian pro-government protesters carry pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad as they shout slogans after Friday prayers outside the Omayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria. (AP) (AP2011)

As Syria’s dictatorship continued to kill rebellious protesters with artillery shells and gunfire over the weekend, the United Nations Development Program, or UNDP, abruptly announced it was postponing a five-year, $38 million plan to support the government of President Bashar Assad, a plan slated for approval in June.

In a terse announcement, the U.N.’s flagship anti-poverty agency said it was “deferring” consideration of the plan “to ensure that the new program addresses the evolving development needs of the Syrian people.”

UNDP’s sudden decision to put its Syrian program in the deep-freeze came just two days after Fox News disclosed details of the impending plan, described in internal documents as the continuation of “a well-functioning partnership with the government.

A day later, UNDP’s intentions were condemned in Washington by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who called the proposed plan of support a “potential Bucks for Bashar scandal,” and called for a cutoff of U.S. taxpayer support for UNDP. 

Assad’s troops and security forces have killed hundreds of anti-government protesters in the past few weeks, according to human rights organizations, and over the weekend showed no signs of stopping.

There was no reference to the Assad regime’s violence in the UNDP announcement about its new course of action. Instead, the agency only noted that “as events have unfolded in Syria, UNDP formed the view that a deferral of submission of the next country program to its executive board was necessary.”

The agency said nothing about when it might bring forward the proposal again.

UNDP’s new five-year plan for Syria involved work in five areas, the agency said: “promoting economic growth; enhancing institutional, administrative and legal frameworks, strengthening environmental management; improving disaster prevention and management; and fighting HIV/AIDS.” The program involved working on projects with Syria’s ministries of justice, information, foreign affairs, economy and trade, communications, local administration, tourism, social affairs and labor, health, transport, electricity and environment.”

All of those ministries are closely controlled by the Assad dictatorship.

Ironically, much of UNDP’s proposed work for legal and judicial “enhancement” in Syria in the past centered on the ancient city of Daraa, where UNDP had worked with the Syrian government to improve “the administration of and access to justice for citizens.”

Click here for the UNDP Program in Daraa.

Daraa has in past weeks emerged as one of the strongest points of popular rejection of the Assad regime -- and over the weekend was the particular focal point for ground and artillery attack by Syrian military and security units.”

George Russell is executive editor of Fox News and can be found on Twitter @GeorgeRussell.