By Ronald Koven

 UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova told a breakfast meeting Nov. 9 with members of the Anglo-American Press Association that she is heartened by the decision of theUSgovernment to continue to be active in the Paris-based Organization, despite a legal requirement to withhold US dues over the recent admission ofPalestineas a full-fledged member state. The breakfast at UNESCO’s Paris HQ was at the Organization’s invitation.

 Bokova said that this US position is a “fundamental difference” from Washington’s suspension of its membership in the 1980s.The US now sees its membership and commitment to UNESCO as being in the US national interest, including its security interests, she said, noting that UNESCO activities involve follow-ups to US reconstruction activities in Afghanistan and Iraq.

 UNESCO’s loss of theUScontribution of 22 per cent of its budget means that many program activities must be put on hold, she said, but this also offers an opportunity for further administrative reforms to eliminate wasteful practices. She said that UNESCO would open an emergency fund for voluntary contributions to make up at least part of the shortfall and that there have already been “hundreds” of offers of support from the United States and Canada, which has suspended new voluntary funding of UNESCO.

 Bokova said that during a recent trip toWashingtonto discuss the problem, she had spoken on the phone with former First Lady Laura Bush, who expressed her support for the Organization. The Director General said she had appealed to US Congressional leaders to change the law requiring the dues cut-off.