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University won't seek refund from embattled authorInvalid word space value

The University at Buffalo welcomed Greg Mortenson in November as part of its Distinguished Speakers Series and paid him some $30,000.

The university will not seek its money back, after Sunday's "60 Minutes" report about the author and activist.

"The university is aware of the allegations raised about Mr. Mortenson," UB spokesman John Della Contrada said Monday. "He fulfilled his speaking contract with the university, and we do not intend to seek a refund."

At the same time, Della Contrada said the university had not planned to ask Mortenson to return, and still has no plans to ask him to return.

Mortenson is co-author of a New York Times best-seller, "Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace One School at a Time." The book tells of his calling to build schools in remote regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He also is a founder and the executive director of the nonprofit Central Asia Institute and founder of Pennies For Peace, a program that teaches young people about giving to others.

However, the report on the CBS' "60 Minutes" cast doubt on the truth of some of his claims -- that as part of his mission he had been kidnapped by the Taliban, for example, or that he began his work when, after failing to reach the summit of K2 he got lost and stumbled into the village of Korphe where a child begged him to build a school.

The "60 Minutes" journalists interviewed porters on Mortenson's climbing expedition who said he never became separated from the party, and interviewed another man who said the supposed kidnappers were actually Mortenson's protectors in Waziristan.

Further, "60 Minutes" reported that the Central Asia Institute spends donors' money to promote Mortenson's books, "Three Cups of Tea " and "Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan." The charity lists $1.7 million in "book-related expenses" when it appears to derive no revenue from the sales.

At the same time, one of Mortenson's critics in the "60 Minutes" installment, noted author Jon Krakauer, who had donated $75,000 to Mortenson's charity, also acknowledged that "he has done a lot of good."

"He has helped thousands of school kids in Pakistan and Afghanistan He has become perhaps the world's most effective spokesperson for girls' education in developing countries," Krakauer said. "And he deserves credit for that "

Mortenson refused "60 Minutes' " request for an interview, but in two statements to the program stood by the information presented in his books and on the lecture circuit. He concluded his second written statement by saying, "When it is darkest you can see the stars."

News staff reporter Aaron Besecker contributed to this report.

e-mail: mspina@buffnews.com

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