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US Cuts Funding to World Bank Over Support to Iran

By Ilda Jacobs

Washington, DC (African Eye News Service, July 19, 2000) - African HIV/Aids programmes have benefited from a US House of Representatives amendment to cut funding to the World Bank in protest against its resumed funding to Iran. The cut in funding comes after the World Bank announced in May it would resume lending US$231 million to Iran, which has been widely condemned for its prosecution of 10 Jews charged with spying.

The Iranian authorities detained the Jews for a year without trial and then sentenced them and three other Iranian nationals to between four and 13 years in jail on July 1.

The proceedings were held behind closed doors and the judge acted as prosecutor. The defendants, who included a 17-year-old teenager and a perfume merchant, were denied legal counsel of their choice.

They were accused of spying for the US and Israeli governments. Both governments denied this.

The cut in funding to the World Bank will now increase American funding for HIV/Aids programmes in the world's poorest countries by US$ 10 million.

The funding for the programme has been increased from $202 million to $212 million, but remains less than requested by the Clinton administration.

Congressman Brad Sherman proposed the amendment and said at a public rally on Monday that the charges against the Jews were trumped-up.

He suggested sanctions against Iran, but said the sanctions would not include a bar on the export of grain.

"We are not in dispute with the people who eat bread, we are in dispute with the government," Sherman said.

He proposed the bar of luxury American exports to Iran, such as caviar. Both US President Bill Clinton and international human rights organisations have slammed the treatment of the Jews.

According to the world's largest Jewish organisation, B'nai B'Rith International, the basic norms of criminal justice were violated.

The organisation's president, Richard D. Heidemann, is a Washington-based trial attorney and said the proceedings were political show trials conducted with utter disregard for the rights of the defendants.

He urged all governments that live by the rule of law to protest loudly and take appropriate action against Iran.

However, former South African president Nelson Mandela has defended the Iranian judicial system.

In May, Mandela said foreigners should avoid interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign state and was assured by Iran's spiritual Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini and President Mohammed Khatami that the trial would be fair.

Rallies all around the United States have been held in support of liberty and justice for the Iranian Jews.


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