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Israel Urging U.S. to Veto Invite to PLO at UN Mideast Debate in Jan.

Israel is urging the U.S. to attempt to veto the proposed invitation to the Palestine Liberation Organization to participate in the Jan. 12 Security Council Mideast debate. Legal and diplomatic experts here believe this can be done. The first such urging was transmitted to Washington today in talks here with visiting Assistant Secretary of State Alfred Atherton. Atherton met for more than two hours with Foreign Minister Yigal Allon and later called on Premier Yitzhak Rabin. He is due to return home tomorrow, ending a Mideast swing that took him to Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Israeli officials are understood to have contended in the talks with Atherton that a tough U.S. stand–tougher than that adopted at the Security Council session in November–could still thwart the Syrian-Soviet effort to have the PLO attend the Council debate and thus shift the focus of Mideast diplomacy from Geneva to the Council.

Israel argues that under the UN Charter, the issue of whether a matter is procedural or substantive (only substantive issues are subject to veto powers) is itself substantive. This being the case, the U.S. could press for a debate on this issue–a veto of any Council resolution to invite the PLO, the Israelis say.

So far, officials here point out, there has been no Council decision to invite the PLO. There was only the statement of then-Council President Jacob Malik of the Soviet Union, in November saying that the majority of members understood the PLO would be invited. But on January 1, five of the Council’s ten non-permanent members will be rotated and the majority of November will not technically be the same majority. Hence, the Israelis argue, the then-President’s statement no longer applies.

Atherton’s reaction is understood not to have been positive. He argued that Israel ought to attend the session and gave no undertaking that the U.S. would veto the PLO invitation. Both sides acknowledged that the talks with Atherton were mainly preliminary and informative in nature. Allon will be going to Washington early in January for authoritative talks with the Administration on coordinating tactics for the Council debate.

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