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Middle East peace:A delicate balance

Finding a solution to the plight of millions of Palestinian refugees in the Middle East is key to peace in the region, the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said on Thursday.

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The Middle East process:A shadowy affair

The fate of refugees is one of the thorniest issues in the

stalled Middle East peace process, as Israel rejects Palestinian

demands to allow their return to lands they fled in 1948 when the

state of Israel was created.

"UNRWA has no political role, but it does have the moral role of

reminding all parties involved and all governments with a say in the

peace process that there will be no peace without a fair solution

for refugees in line with UN resolutions," the agency's

Commissionner General Filippo Grandi told AFP.

"It is tragic that the international community has not yet found

a solution to this problem," Grandi, who was appointed to the post

in January, said on a visit to Beirut.

Money woes

NGO im Gazastreifen UNRWA Hilfsorganisation Gaza

Relief food for Palestinian refugees from U.N. Relief and Works Agency(UNRWA

The cash-strapped UNRWA provides assistance to about 4.7 million

Palestinian refugees, many of whom have settled in camps in Jordan,

Syria and Lebanon.

"The situation has been the same for 60 years now, and today we

speak of fourth-generation refugees," said Grandi. "Without a

solution, this will only continue."

UNRWA remains 100 million dollars short of its budget for 2010,

Grandi said earlier this month.

Part of the agency's budget in Lebanon goes to the

reconstruction of Nahr al-Bared, a camp near the northern port city

of Tripoli levelled in deadly fighting between the army and

Al-Qaeda-inspired group Fatah al-Islam in 2007.

The fighting killed 400 people, including 168 Lebanese soldiers,

and displaced about 30,000 residents from the Palestinian refugee

camp, where Fatah al-Islam was based.

UNRWA has made an appeal for 450 million dollars to rebuild the

camp and the surrounding areas but has so far received only 120

million dollars.

"The money we have right now covers the reconstruction of only

three of eight camp sections destroyed," Grandi said.

"We also need relief funds for the basic needs of the camp

residents urgently. What we have now will run dry by May or June."

Palästinenser Gaza second Hand Laden in Jebaliya Flash-Galerie

A Palestinian vendor,many refugees are barred from entering some professions

On the political and economic fronts, the Lebanese constitution

bans Palestinian refugees from obtaining Lebanese citizenship,

owning property or entering some professions.

Grandi said he has urged Prime Minister Saad Hariri to find "a

concrete solution for the legal employment of refugees in Lebanon."

Delicate Balance

According to UNRWA figures, Lebanon is home to nearly 400,000

refugees, most of whom live in 12 destitute camps across the

country.

Other figures put the number at between 250,000 and 270,000 as

the UN does not strike off its list those who emigrate from Lebanon,

which has a population of four million.

Lebanon, which supports the refugees' right to return to their

homes, absorbs 12 to 15 percent of the cash-strapped agency's total

annual budget, which tops 600 million dollars (442 million euros).

Lebanese across the board reject the permanent settlement or

full integration of the mainly Sunni Muslim Palestinians, as their

naturalisation would upset the country's delicate confessional

balance.

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