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Agence France Presse

Bush on the Spot Again over UN Population Fund China Claims


President George W. Bush Friday faced new pressure to reverse a US decision to pull 34 million dollars in financing from the UN Population Fund over claims its programs support forced abortion in China.

The fund welcomed the US Senate’s action in passing a 2004 foreign Operations spending bill late Thursday, which included 34 million dollars for its operations.

“This critical funding will help save women’s lives around the world,” said UN Population Fund Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid.

“I appeal to the United States administration to allow the funds appropriated by Congress to be released.”

In a statement, the State Department said the admininstration was studying the request.

“The administration will continue to monitor Chinas birth-limitation policies and practices, and UNFPAs support for and/or participation in the management thereof, and will make a decision on funding UNFPA before the end of the fiscal year,” the statement said.

Bush’s administration decided in 2002 to strip 34 million dollars appropriated by Congress in a previous budget to the fund, ruling that despite its denials, the agency backed or funded programs in China that coerce women into abortions.

The claim was vigorously denied by the fund and countered by a delegation of Muslim, Catholic and Jewish groups that visited China last year.

The Bush administration last year said its decision was based on a legal analysis of a report conducted by a three-person independent team sent to China to probe the agency’s work.

The department said that legal analysis of the report found that the fund fell afoul of the 1985 Kemp-Kasten amendment, which denies funding for projects involving coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.

The investigative report however found no evidence that the fund knowingly supported or took part in a program of coerced abortion of involuntary sterilization in China — and recommended the 34 million dollars be released by the US government.

The decision followed a vigorous campaign by conservative and anti-abortion groups against the funding and was roundly condemned by the United Nations and China.

One pro-UNFPA group warned that Bush “has the fate of thousands of women in Asia, Africa and Latin America in his hands.”

“UNFPA is a catalyst for chance and promotes voluntary, high quality reproductive health care in China,” said Francis Kissling, president of Catholics for Free Choice, who took part in the multifaith mission to China last year.

This article courtesy of Agence France Presse.

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