Canada looking at UN agency over Palestinian connection

Ottawa will look into the possibility that a United Nations agency Canada backs is connected with Hamas, a Palestinian militant group.

The federal government is promising to look into the possibility that a United Nations agency Canada backs is employing members of Hamas, a Palestinian group Canada has defined as terrorists.

Israel said Sunday that the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) supports Hamas and demanded the UN investigate the agency and its head, Peter Hansen.

Hansen has "for years has expressed anti-Israeli, biased, unrestrained positions and statements," Dan Gillerman, Israel's UN ambassador, told Israel Radio.

Israel released a picture which it says shows a UN vehicle being used to move a rocket for the militants.

The UN said the picture showed a stretcher being loaded into an ambulance.

Hansen said he believes there are Hamas members on UNRWA's payroll, but they have to follow UN rules on remaining neutral.

"Oh I am sure that there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll and I don't see that as a crime. Hamas as a political organization does not mean that every member is a militant and we do not do political vetting and exclude people from one persuasion as against another," Hanson told CBC TV.

"We demand of our staff, whatever their political persuasion is, that they behave in accordance with UN standards and norms for neutrality," he said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said, "should Mr. Hansen's comment not be taken out of context and should it reflect UNRWA's position, we are deeply concerned, and will immediately seek clarification from Mr. Hansen directly and from UN authorities."

Canada supports UNWRA with $10 million a year.