U.N.'s Ban: Palestinians Should Defer Agency Bids

CANNES, France -- Palestinian efforts to join U.N. agencies beyond its cultural arm are "not beneficial for anybody" and could lead to cuts in funding sure to affect millions of people, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon warned Thursday.

In an Associated Press interview, the U.N. chief reiterated the world body's support for a viable, independent Palestinian state -- but lamented the Palestinian Authority's efforts to join U.N. affiliates before the U.N. itself.

The Palestinians have asked the Security Council to grant them full membership in the United Nations, and a vote is tentatively set for Nov. 11 -- but the United States, a stalwart Israeli ally, has vowed to veto the request.

Since their application in September, the Palestinians have sought to join other U.N. agencies in which the U.S. doesn't have veto power on membership issues. A culmination of that effort came Monday, when the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization voted to welcome Palestine.

U.S. law bars contributions to organizations that grant membership to territories that aren't internationally recognized states. The United States and Canada are now cutting off funds for UNESCO because the Paris-based agency -- stripping it of about one-quarter of its total funding.

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The Palestinian Authority plans to apply for membership in 16 other U.N. specialized agencies -- even though Ban has repeatedly pressed Palestinians to wait for the U.N. Security Council decision.

"I believe this is not beneficial for Palestine and not beneficial for anybody," he said, noting that U.N. agencies need both financial and political support.

"When an organization is not properly functioning because of a lack of resources, you have to think about the millions and millions of people who are being impacted and affected," he said.
Ban said he was "asking and urging member states" to make up for the shortfall in funding for UNESCO and other agencies.

One top Palestinian leader shot back at Ban, suggesting the U.N chief should lean on U.S. lawmakers.

"I think it would be easier for Mr. Ban Ki-Moon to ask the Congress to change their laws," Saeb Erekat said. "I don't think Palestine's admittance to any of these agencies will bring harm."