The Bush administration will withhold $34 million in congressionally approved assistance to the U.N. Population Fund because of the fund's connection to China and forced abortions, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday.

The State Department said it was convinced the fund helped China manage programs that involved forced abortions.

Powell said in a letter to Congress that the administration will continue to help women and children around the world through other programs.

The withholding of the money was criticized by Tim Wirth, who is president of the United Nations Foundation, Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and several members of Congress.

"This decision is clearly based on politics, not on public health," Feldt said.

Wirth, a former Democratic senator from Colorado, called the decision a disappointment to everyone who cares about women's health, maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS prevention "and, frankly, to all of us who are concerned about international cooperation as well as America's reputation in the world."

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), noting that this is the third year the Bush administration has blocked congressional assistance to the U.N. fund, said that the State Department's own investigators found two years ago there was no evidence linking the fund to any coercive abortion programs in China.

But Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.), applauding the decision, said the fund "continues to be guilty of shamelessly supporting and whitewashing terrible crimes against humanity."

The United States is the largest donor of bilateral assistance to help improve the health of women and children and is providing more than $1.8 billion this year through a U.S. Agency for International Development fund, department spokesman Richard Boucher said. This, he said, includes $429 million for reproductive health, including family planning.

Boucher said the State Department had concluded that "money for the U.N. Population Fund improved the management of Chinese programs that led to coercive abortion practices."