WASHINGTON (Jun. 28)
State Department spokesman Frederick Brown stated emphatically today that the meeting of PLO representative Shawfiq Al-Hut with more than a dozen senators here last Friday “in no way reflects a change in U.S. government policy toward the PLO.”
Brown, who told reporters to “underline that statement,” made the remark in explaining why the Department granted permission to the PLO spokesman to travel to Washington. PLO representatives who have been granted observer status by the United Nations, are restricted by the U.S. government to an area of 25 miles from Columbus Circle in Manhattan. The U.S. does not recognize the PLO.
Al-Hut was invited to a luncheon by Sen. James Abourezk (D. SD) who is of Lebanese descent. The luncheon was attended by prominent senators of both parties including such staunchly pro-Israel legislators as Abraham Ribicoff (D. Conn.), Charles Mathias (R. Md) and Gaylord Nelson (D. Wisc.)
Brown said the State Department waived the travel restriction at Abourezk’s request. “In the past we have granted permission on a case-by-case basis to members of the PLO delegation wanting to travel outside that (the 25-mile radius) area for special invitations with the strict understanding that they are not to engage in public political activities,” Brown stated. He said the luncheon “was represented as a private meeting and we still do” (represent it that way).
SEES NOTHING STRANGE
Brown said that Al-Hut remained in Washington about two days and added, in reply to a question, that he didn’t think that was strange. He also said he “did not know of any restrictions” imposed on PLO members “within the 25 mile radius” from New York City. Asked whether any country had complained about Al-Hut’s visit to Washington, the Department spokesman said. “I am not aware of any complaint received about the visit.”
An aide to Ribicoff told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that the Senator had “attended at the request of Senator Abourezk and indicated that he would go and listen to anybody.” The aide said that “Sen Ribicoff has made no further ##
Other senators who attended included George S. McGovern (D. SD); Thomas Eagleton (D. Mo.); Robert Morgan (D. NC) and Walter Huddleston (D. La.).
In emphasizing that the State Department waivedi’s travel restrictions on a case-by-case basis. Brown confirmed that last November another PLO representative, Abdul Salleh, visited parts of the U.S. over the Thanksgiving Day holiday and that he had made a political speech in Chicago and held a press conference in Washington, in violation of the conditions imposed. He did not say what action, if any, was taken by the Department.