- The Washington Times - Monday, June 27, 2005

AbuZayd gets UNRWA

Karen Koning AbuZayd, acting commissioner-general of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), will succeed Peter Hansen of Denmark at the agency that cares for 4 million Palestinian refugees in the Middle East.

Mrs. AbuZayd, who was well-known on Capitol Hill as the Washington representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, will be based in the Gaza Strip. The appointment is to be announced today.

The UNRWA runs camps, schools and medical clinics for Palestinians displaced by the creation of Israel, and their second-, third- and fourth-generation dependents.

Mr. Hansen, the departing director, was accused by the Israeli government of condoning the hiring of Islamic militants for U.N.-funded jobs, permitting schools to preach intolerance for the Jewish state and allowing UNRWA ambulances to be used to transport fighters and weapons across checkpoints.

Mr. Hansen conceded there were Hamas and Islamic Jihad members on UNRWA payrolls, but said it was impossible to hire so many Palestinians and exclude sympathizers of their largest political movements.

Mrs. AbuZayd, the sixth American to run the Palestinian relief agency since it was founded in 1948, likely will deal with these issues, plus the planned withdrawal of Israeli settlers from Gaza.

UNRWA also maintains refugee camps and programs in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, each with its own national frictions and social stresses.

Leaning on Mugabe

Pressure is building on the United Nations and the African Union to help about 300,000 people in Zimbabwe whose homes have been bulldozed by the government as part of a postelection “slum eradication” campaign.

Human rights advocates say leveling the urban settlements and markets is aimed at uprooting urban opposition to President Robert Mugabe’s rule, at incalculable human cost.

On Friday, UNICEF issued an urgent appeal to the government to halt the demolitions, and requested $2.7 million in emergency funds for Zimbabwe.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan last week appointed Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, the executive director of U.N.-Habitat, to be his special envoy for human settlement issues in Zimbabwe.

An advance team has arrived in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, and Mrs. Tibaijuka was expected as early as yesterday or perhaps today “to study the scope of the eviction of illegal dwellers, informal traders and squatters.” Mr. Mugabe has agreed to meet with her.

The human rights coalition also has urged President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria to put Zimbabwe on the agenda of the July 4-5 African Union summit in Libya.

Iraqi funds shifted

The U.N. Security Council agreed last week to transfer to the Development Fund for Iraq $200 million of oil proceeds that had been earmarked for weapons inspections.

An additional $20 million will be applied to Baghdad’s debts to the United Nations, which include obligations to the regular budget, peacekeeping account, and the funds for the special tribunals and the planned U.N. headquarters renovation.

The money is part of the nearly $346 million that had accumulated by the end of 2004 in the bank account of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, created in 1999 to verify Iraq’s compliance with weapons inspections.

The remaining money will continue to fund the commission’s limited activities.

Baghdad has been lobbying for months to get the money released, rather than paying for salaries of weapons inspectors and going to a compensation fund for victims of Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at bpisik@washingtontimes.com.

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