Decision to Shut PLO Office Delayed Until Next Week

Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar reported Thursday that the Reagan administration has delayed until next week a decision to shut down the Palestine Liberation Organization’s observer mission at the United Nations.

The delay was confirmed to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency by American officials here who said a decision would be announced Feb. 17, after Meese returns from Mexico and Europe.

Attorney General Edwin Meese III had been expected to announce Wednesday that the United States would close the observer mission, in compliance with a congressional mandate. But according to a report Thursday in The New York Times, the Justice Department canceled the scheduled announcement at the last minute.

In Washington, State Department spokes-woman Phyllis Oakley confirmed Thursday that Meese’s decision had been expected Wednesday, but was postponed. “They’ve now put it off for some time,” she told reporters.

The order to close the U.N. mission was contained in the State Department’s 1988 spending bill approved by Congress on Dec. 21 and signed into law by President Reagan the following day. It specified that the mission should be closed by the end of a 90-day grace period on March 21.

Secretary of State George Shultz had already ordered the PLO’s information office in Washington closed early in December. The PLO is appealing the decision with court hearings set Feb. 25.

If the State Department had its way, the U.N. observer mission would remain open past the March 21 deadline, according to sources in Washington. But the ball is in the Justice Department’s court, since it is charged with enforcing domestic legislation.

While the Justice Department’s position is not publicly known, the State Department has repeatedly stated its foreign policy concern that the United States would be violating international treaties if it closed the PLO’s U.N. mission.

Perez de Cuellar said Thursday he would continue “to exert every effort to settle the dispute and to bring about dispute settlement procedures” within the framework of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement of 1947, which set the terms of U.N. residency in the United States.

The secretary general gave his report to the U.N. Committee on Relations With the Host Country (the United States), in accordance with a resolution adopted by the General Assembly Dec. 17.

The assembly asked the secretary general to take effective measures to insure full respect for the 1947 Headquarters Agreement.

In his report, de Cuellar noted that the General Assembly stated at the time that the United States is obliged under the Headquarters Agreement to allow PLO personnel to enter and remain in the United States to carry out their official functions.

(Washington correspondent Howard Rosenberg contributed to this report.)

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