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Israel to freeze funding to UNESCO

Nov. 3, 2011 3:28 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 4, 2011 3:32 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday ordered a halt to Israel's financial contributions to UNESCO after the UN cultural organisation granted Palestine full membership.

Netanyahu "ordered that Israel's $2 million-per-annum participation in the budget of UNESCO be frozen, following the organisation's decision to accept the Palestinian Authority into its ranks," the premier's office said.

"The prime minister ordered that the budget be directed to cooperative initiatives towards the same goals in the region."

The decision came three days after UNESCO voted to admit the Palestinians as a full member, a move opposed by the United States and Israel.

"Such steps will not advance peace; they will only push it further away," Netanyahu said on Thursday.

"The only way to reach peace is through direct negotiations without preconditions."

Washington has already suspended its contributions to UNESCO -- which account for some 22 percent of the organization's budget -- in compliance with existing US legislation.

After the membership was approved, by a vote of 107-14, with 52 abstentions, Israel announced several punitive measures, including the acceleration of settlement construction and a freeze on the transfer of tax money to the Palestinian Authority.
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