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U.N. Attempts to Thwart Move by Congress to Close PLO Office

U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar sent a letter Monday to the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, saying that the world body opposes a congressional move to close the Palestine Liberation Organization’s observer mission in New York.

The letter, sent to Vernon Walters, conveyed the U.N.’s “legal position” that the PLO’s observer mission cannot be closed under existing international agreements, a U.N. spokesman said Tuesday.

A resolution to close the PLO’s offices in Washington and New York was adopted 11-8 last Thursday by a House-Senate conference committee. The measure, which previously had passed the full Senate, is part of an amendment to the State Department authorization bill for the next fiscal year.

Both houses have to vote again on the amendment before it becomes law. Sources in Washington said they expect this to happen later this week or next week.

D.C. OFFICE STILL OPEN

The State Department has already ordered the PLO to close its information office in Washington, but it opposes closing the observer mission to the United Nations in New York. A federal district court has upheld the order closing the Washington office, but it has remained open, pending appeal to a higher court.

The PLO was invited to set up an observer mission to the United Nations in 1974 with the adoption of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 3273. “As such they are covered by sections 11, 12, and 13 of the headquarters agreement of June 26, 1947,” according to the U.N. spokesman.

These sections say that the United Nations may not impose “any impediments to transit to or from the headquarters” of “persons invited” by the United Nations and requires the United States to grant visas to all such people.

The Arab nations are considering asking the World Court in The Hague to rule on the legality of closing the PLO observer mission in New York, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

Commenting on the report, the U.N. spokesman said: “It is too early to speculate about the submission of this case to the International Court of Justice, since the decision of the Congress is not yet law, and the U.S. has not made clear how it intends to implement this decision.”

Israeli diplomats on Tuesday praised the congressional move to shut down the PLO office here. Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency: “We welcome the congressional decision, which should be taken as an example by all countries that terrorists cannot dwell in the midst of civilized society. It is high time that the U.N. expel the PLO from its ranks altogether.”

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