EU lawmakers urge US to respect Palestinian funding pledge

Palestinians take part in a protest against aid cuts, outside the United Nations’ offices in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on January 28, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 08 February 2018
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EU lawmakers urge US to respect Palestinian funding pledge

BRUSSELS: European Union lawmakers are urging the US to honor its financial pledge to the UN refugee agency working with the Palestinians as the agency faces a funding crisis that could affect millions.
In a resolution Thursday, the European Parliament “urges the United States to reconsider its decision and to honor the payment of its entire scheduled contribution to the agency.”
The US has been UNRWA’s largest donor, contributing one-third of the agency’s total budget. But Washington withheld half of the first installment of payments this year, demanding reforms in return for future aid.
The lawmakers welcomed a commitment from Arab League countries to contribute, but called on them to boost their contributions.
UNRWA is seeking $800 million for its emergency operations this year.


Morocco Christians urge religious freedom before pope visit

Updated 30 min 9 sec ago
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Morocco Christians urge religious freedom before pope visit

  • Morocco is 99 percent Muslim
  • The pontiff is due to visit the North African country on March 30-31 at the invitation of King Mohammed VI

RABAT: Morocco’s Christian minority on Thursday called on authorities in the Muslim-majority country to guarantee religious freedoms, ahead of a visit by Pope Francis.
The Coordination of Moroccan Christians, a group representing converts to Christianity in a nation that is 99 percent Muslim, appealed for “basic freedoms of which we, Moroccan Christians, are still often deprived.”
These include freedom of public worship as well as the right to have church or civil weddings and Christian funeral rites and education, it said in a statement.
“We dream of a free Morocco” which embraces religious diversity, the group said, adding that it hopes Pope Francis’s visit this month will be a “historic occasion” for the country.
“We also call on the Moroccan authorities to no longer put pressure on the country’s official churches, including the Catholic church in Morocco, to dissuade them from accepting” converts to Christianity, the statement said.
The pontiff is due to visit the North African country on March 30-31 at the invitation of King Mohammed VI.
More than 40,000 Christians — mostly foreigners — are estimated to live in Morocco, whose king describes himself as the “commander of the faithful.”
Religious pluralism is enshrined in the constitution and freedom of worship is guaranteed, according to the Moroccan authorities.