WASHINGTON (Aug. 25)
Two U.S. government departments said today that the Palestine Liberation Organization can open and operate “an information office” in Washington without first obtaining U.S. permission. Their statements came amid reports that the PLO, which has observer status at the United Nations and has been operating a propaganda office in New York and which was unsuccessful in attempting to operate in Washington last year, is again prepared to function here within a short time.
“U.S. government permission to open an information office is not required, provided the organization is duly registered with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act and the office is staffed by persons legally admitted to or resident in the United States and is engaged in lawful activities,” the State Department said in a written response to reporters questions. “The PLO last year registered with the Justice Department its intention to open an information office in Washington.”
At the Department of Justice, officials confirmed to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that U.S. government permission is not necessary but noted that Justice has no control over whether the PLO could function in Washington. “That’s up to the State Department,” an official said. “That decision is based on foreign policy considerations.”
After the PLO had registered last November to maintain contacts with members of Congress and U.S. officials, the State Department found that Sabri E. Jiryis, who had registered as the PLO agent, had provided false information on his visa application and the State Department then ordered him to leave the country when his visa period had expired.
It is understood that while the State Department under present U.S. policy would probably not grant visas for PLO members to operate the office here, it would not bar Americans or citizens of another country to operate it in the PLO’s name.
With the office registered and reports on its functions required by the Justice Department every six months, one period report on the PLO operation was received at Justice last May bearing Jiryis’ signature and mailed from Beirut, Lebanon. Another report would be due at the end of November for the six months ending Nov. 18.