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Washington, DC-The Bush administration will not pay $34 million it earmarked for U.N. family planning programs overseas, an initiative aimed at controlling population but one that pro-life groups charge tolerates abortions and forced sterilizations in China.

Critics of the decision said they smelled politics at work.

Administration officials, lawmakers and interest groups that monitor the issue said Sunday they have been told the decision is now final. One administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said an announcement is likely from the State Department on Tuesday, but added the timing could change.

White House officials said privately that pro-life advocates have for months quietly encouraged the administration to permanently deny money to the United Nations Population Fund.
The White House has kept the politically delicate decision a closely guarded secret. It has refused to divulge it even to allies in Congress, such as the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.
More than a dozen administration officials, inside the White House and out, declined to comment Sunday or did not return phone calls on the matter, so the reasoning behind the decision was not clear.

The president has already signed into law the foreign aid bill that contains the $34 million. But when he did so in January, he noted in an accompanying statement that it gives him "additional discretion to determine the appropriate level of funding for the United Nations Population Fund."

Two administration officials said Bush is now likely to channel the $34 million to family planning organizations run by the State Department's Agency for International Development that are not directly involved in abortion.

A study from a U.S. government fact-finding mission to China in early May reportedly found no evidence that the U.N.'s program directly or indirectly facilitates forced sterilizations and abortions in China. A British delegation visited China a month before the U.S. team arrived and its investigators also did not find evidence that U.N. funds were misused for such purposes.
In advance of the administration's formal announcement, 48 pro-abortion members of Congress asked Bush last week to explain why he had withheld the $34 million.

Critics of the decision said it was driven by politics.

Pro-abortion Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) attributed it to the White House's"mindless zeal to take care of their right-wing base."

But Deal Hudson, editor of the Catholic magazine Crisis, praised Bush's move. "My information is that it's permanently withheld, and that's good news to people who think like I do," Hudson said. "The U.N. population fund is bad policy because it relies on population control rather than economic development to address problems of poverty; and the problem is not population, the problem is underdevelopment."
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