- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 20, 2001

President Bush will decide how much U.S. money the U.N. Population Fund will get under the compromise foreign-operations bill that passed the House yesterday and awaits approval in the Senate.

The $15.3 billion bill, which includes money for programs ranging from military assistance to Egypt and Israel to peacekeeping operations and the Peace Corps, passed by a 357-66 vote.

But it had been stalled for several weeks over money for the population fund, also known as UNFPA. The original House version called for $25 million, while the Senate version called for $40 million. The compromise sets a ceiling of $34 million, but the president will decide exactly how much to give.

"It needs to be fully understood that the ball is in the president's court now," said Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican. "Our hope is that the president will look at the sordid complicity of the UNFPA with the Chinese population-control police."

Mr. Smith and other critics say the UNFPA aids China in carrying out forced abortions as part of that nation's "one child per family" policy.

But UNFPA officials say they only work in areas where the policy has been suspended and argue they provide China with a model for how to control population without forced abortions.

Democratic House members and the UNFPA yesterday praised the result.

"We are pleased that the House and Senate has seen to provide a significant increase in funding for the UNFPA, which will be used to help save women's lives around the world," said Sarah Craven, Washington-based spokeswoman for the UNFPA.

In its original request the White House asked for $25 million for the fund the same amount allocated last year. Since the White House didn't join conservative Republicans' attempt to eliminate funding this year, birth-control advocates are hopeful they will fare well when the president makes his decision on UNFPA funding.

House and Senate lawmakers thought they had a compromise worked out before Thanksgiving. That bill set funding at $34 million, but docked another $2.5 million a one-to-one tradeoff for every U.S. dollar the UNFPA spent in China making the final appropriation $31.5 million.

In exchange for the higher funding, the Senate backed away from overturning the "Mexico City" rule prohibiting U.S. money from going to international organizations that perform or counsel about abortions.

But Mr. Smith and others balked at the increased funding, arguing they would like to see no funding for UNFPA, as has happened in some years. Republican House leaders then sent their negotiators back, which led to the deal being approved yesterday.

The bill, which covers fiscal 2002, is $178 million more than was in the House version but $178 million less than the Senate version.

The compromise:

•Provides $2.04 billion in military assistance to Israel, $1.3 billion to Egypt and $75 million to Jordan. It also allocates $720 million in economic assistance to Israel, $655 million to Egypt and $150 million to Jordan.

•Includes $135 million for peacekeeping operations the amount the president requested.

•Increases funding for the Peace Corps by $10 million, to $275 million.

•Allots $475 million to combat HIV and AIDS worldwide.

•Includes $660 million for the Andean Counterdrug Initiative $71 million less than the president's request.

"This bill reflects America's presence in the world during time of war, but also in peace $15 billion to make sure the voice of freedom is heard around the world," said Rep. Jerry Lewis, California Republican.

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