State Department Says It Can’t Prevent Libya from Constructing Building in N.y.c. but Warns It Will

The State Department said today that it cannot prevent the Libyan government from constructing a building for its Mission to the United Nations in New York as long as the building is used for diplomatic purposes.

“Under the Headquarters Agreement between the United States and the United Nations, member nations of the UN are entitled to establish offices,” the Department said in a statement read by deputy spokesman Alan Romberg. “Libya is a member nation of the UN and, therefore, has a right to establish offices that are determined to be appropriate for the purpose of conducting official activities with the UN.”

But Romberg warned, “We will not tolerate any illegal acts or abuse of privileges granted the Libyan Mission under the Headquarters Agreement. In the event of any such intolerable incident, the U.S. government would act decisively to expel the abusers.” The U.S. last spring expelled Libyan diplomats from the United States for terrorist activities but under its agreement with the UN it must admit all diplomats accredited to the UN.

The State Department statement also noted that the tax status of the new Libyan Mission will not be determined until it is known for what purpose all of the space in the building will be used. “Those portions of the missions property used solely for diplomatic purposes (including the housing of the Chief of the Mission, his family and personal staff) will be tax exempt. Those portions used for commercial or staff housing purposes will be subject to taxation by New York tax authorities,” the State Department explained.

Libyan officials said the building will have 10 stories of apartments, 13 floors for office space and two stories set aside for “education and training.” They did not elaborate on the nature of the education and training.

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