WASHINGTON (Oct. 2)
The State Department continued to refuse to say Friday whether it would grant a visa to Yasir Arafat, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, if he decides to address the United Nations General Assembly this fall. “He has not applied for a visa,” State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said. “We don’t speculate on hypothetical cases.”
Her comments came after 51 senators sent a letter Thursday to Secretary of State George Shultz urging him to deny a visa to Arafat. A similar letter was being circulated in the House by Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.)
Among the signers of the Senate letter were the two vice presidential candidates, Sens. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and Dan Quayle (R-Ind.). The letter was initiated by Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) and Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.)
“Arafat should be denied access to our as a tool of foreign policy,” the Senate letter said.
It also demanded that Arafat meet the conditions the United States has set since 1975 for contacts with the PLO — recognition of Israel’s right to exist and acceptance of U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
There has been a great deal of speculation that Arafat wants to address the General Assembly, probably in November, but he has so far not confirmed this.
The 1947 U.N. Headquarters Agreement requires the United States not to “impose any impediments to transit” for people coming to the United Nations for official business.
Under this agreement, Arafat was allowed to come to New York in 1974 to address the General Assembly, which he did wearing a pistol strapped to his side.
However, Reagan administration officials have maintained that despite the headquarters agreement, they can deny a visa to anyone considered to “pose a security threat.”
This right was exercised in September when the State Department refused a visa to Carlos Tunnermann, whose credentials as Nicaragua’s ambassador to Washington had been withdrawn earlier this year.