US accused of stifling UN Arab report

The author of a UN report on freedom and governance in the Arab world says the United States is threatening to cut aid should the report be published.

    The US allegedly objected to the section on Israel

    Nadir Farghani, the Egyptian social scientist who co-wrote the last three Arab Human Development Reports, said defying the United States could cost the UN Development Programme (UNDP) about $100 million a year.

    US officials have denied trying to delay or suppress the report, which was originally due out in October. But UN officials say parts are being rewritten after the US and some Arab governments asked for changes.

    Farghani said the United States had already penalised the UNDP by $12 million because it did not like the previous report.

    "My understanding is that this time they are threatening a much heavier penalty - the entire US contribution to the UNDP budget, or $100 million," Farghani said.

    Israel, Iraq section

    Washington is unhappy, Farghani said, with sections in the report on the US presence in Iraq and the activities of its ally Israel in the Palestinian territories.

    Farghani said the US contradicted
    its own rhetoric on freedom

    Asked what evidence he had, he said: "Of course there are no official documents. In cases like this, you do not give your opponents something with which to fight back."

    A spokeswoman for the UNDP office in Cairo said she could not comment on Farghani's remarks and the office was closed until Sunday for the Egyptian weekend.

    The Egyptian government, Farghani said, objected to the parts of the report calling for freedom of expression and association in the Arab world.

    Contradiction

    Ironically, the United States used the first Arab Human Development Report, dated 2002, as the basis for its first detailed proposals on reform in the Arab world.

    Farghani said at the time the United States had abused the report to give its ideas some credibility.

    "The United States is suppressing the two national liberation movements in the Arab world - in Iraq and in Palestine"

    Nadir Farghani
    E

    gyptian social scientist

    He said on Saturday many US actions were in contradiction with its rhetorical commitment to freedom.

    "For example, the United States is suppressing the two national liberation movements in the Arab world - in Iraq and in Palestine," he said.

    He said the United States had initially asked for changes to the 2004 report, which concentrates on freedom and good governance in the Arab world. "But now they are trying to suppress it completely," he added.

    Editing

    The report is the work of about 100 specialists in the Arab world and the UNDP has spent about $700,000 on it.

    Officials at UNDP said on Thursday they had not buckled to pressure from a member state and the report was undergoing a normal editing process.

    Spokesman William Orme acknowledged that both Washington and the Egyptians had raised concerns about various parts of the report. But he said both had based their comments on early drafts of the report which had now been discarded or revised.

    Farghani said that after missing the original launch date, the writers were hoping it would come out towards the end of January. "But there is no final date," he added.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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