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State Department Opens Door for PLO Members to Enter the U.S.

The State Department made it clear Friday that while the United States continues to regard the Palestine Liberation Organization as “proscribed,” it will allow members of the group to enter the United States and represent the PLO if they are “not bent on sabotage” or are not “terrorists.” Each applicant will be examined on an individual basis.

The road appeared to be cleared of most obstacles for the PLO to conduct “information offices” in the U.S. since it had registered last Nov. 18 with the Department of Justice as a foreign agent and has official authorization to meet members of Congress and Administration officials, among others.

At that time, the State Department declared the opening of a PLO office in Washington was “not propitious” and found the visa application of one of the proposed officials, Sibri Jiryis, as having had false information. He was directed to leave the country.

BASIS FOR CHANGE EXPLAINED

However, John Trattner, a State Department spokesman, disclosed the new U.S. position at a media briefing last Friday. He pointed to the inclusion of the McGovern amendment to the State Department’s authorization legislation which President Carter signed into law Aug. 17 as the basis for the change.

This amendment, introduced by Sen. George McGovern (D.SD), who has strongly advocated U.S. communication with the PLO, said its purpose is to achieve “greater U.S. compliance” with the Helsinki agreement and to encourage other signatory countries to comply with it.

The law allows the Secretary of State, “within 30 days of receiving an application for a non-immigrant visa by any alien who is excludable from the United States by reason of membership in or affiliation with a proscribed organization but who is otherwise admissible to the U.S.,” to recommend that the Attorney General grant the approval necessary for the issuance of a visa to such an alien “unless the Secretary determined that the admission of such alien would be contrary to the security interests of the United States.”

The Secretary would have to certify this determination to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman. Trattner said “the new legislation does not change the fact that there are certain proscribed organizations, including the PLO.”

He said that applications for visas from PLO representatives will be examined on “an individual basis,” adding, “We do not intend to allow terrorists or those bent on sabotage to enter the country.” He said that a visa application from a PLO member is pending in the State Department but that he could not identify the applicant. The PLO, which has an office in New York, holds observer status at the United Nations.

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