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The Globe and Mail

'Not happy' with Palestinian decision, Ottawa mulls future with UN agency

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird speaks during a Question Period in the House of Commons on Oct. 31, 2011.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Stephen Harper's government is reconsidering how much support it gives UNESCO now that the United Nations agency has accepted the Palestinian Authority as a full member.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says he is not happy with the recent decision by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and is examining options.

Mr. Baird says he appreciates much of the work UNESCO undertakes, but is having second thoughts.

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Washington has announced it will pull its $60-million (U.S.) in funding from UNESCO.

Ottawa contributes about $10-million (Canadian) a year to the agency.

"We are not happy with the decision UNESCO has made, and we have to look and see what we should do in response," Mr. Baird said.

"I think UNESCO does important work that our government can support, but we are not happy with this decision, so we are in the midst of looking at our future participation," he said.

A spokesman for the U.S. State Department said Monday that Washington will maintain its membership and participation in the body, though it was not immediately clear how that would work if it was no longer paying its share of the costs.

UNESCO depends heavily on U.S. funding – Washington provides 22 per cent of its budget – but has survived without it in the past.

The UNESCO vote represented a fallback plan for the Palestinian leadership that presented its plan for UN recognition as a state and full membership in the global body in September.

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Israel has fiercely opposed the bid, and it has no chance of passing because the Obama administration has promised to veto any resolution in the Security Council.

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