BRUSSELS (Dec. 1)
The United States is under intense pressure from its Western European allies to reverse its decision barring Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasir Arafat from addressing the U.N. General Assembly.
The 12-nation European Community issued a strong statement Wednesday night, the eve of its summit meeting, that amounted almost to a reprimand of Washington for denying Arafat an entry visa.
At the same time, President Francois Mitterrand of France told a French radio interview in Paris that the American decision was “regrettable and imprudent.”
The E.C. statement was issued simultaneously in Brussel, seat of the Community, and in Athens, capital of Greece, which currently chairs the E.C. Council of Ministers and will host the summit on the island of Rhodes this weekend.
The statement read: “In accordance with the Headquarters Agreement and the opinion of the Legal Committee of the United Nations, Arafat should be allowed to address the U.N. Assembly in New York.”
The Headquarters Agreement, signed in 1947, defines the relationship between the United Nations in New York and the United States as host country.
The E.C. statement was paralleled by a similarly worded resolution adopted by the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday night.
The vote was 152-2, with only the United States and Israel opposing it. The United Kingdom abstained.
The same resolution was carried earlier by an overwhelming majority in the Assembly’s Political Committee.
ASKS U.S. TO RECONSIDER
The E.C. statement called on Washington “to review the legal arguments and reconsider its decisions.”
The E.C. foreign ministers are expected to hear U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz explain why Arafat was denied a visa. He will be in Brussels next week for NATO and E.C. talks.
Shultz has already stated publicly that Arafat knew of and condoned acts of terror against Americans and others, which makes him a security risk.
The E.C. foreign ministers stopped short of recognizing the independent Palestinian state proclaimed by Arafat in Algiers last month.
Meanwhile, Greece, the most pro-Arab of the E.C. states, has tried to influence its fellow members to “move further” toward the Palestinians and to initiate an international peace conference to resolve the Middle East dispute.
And Spain, which takes over the rotating chairmanship of the Council of Ministers on Jan. 1, reportedly has expressed hope that the E.C. will recognize an independent Palestinian state.
(JTA Paris bureau chief Edwin Eytan contributed to this report.)