Arab League Meets with Baker Asks for Reopening of PLO Office

Secretary of State James Baker was urged by the Arab League on Thursday to reopen the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Washington office.

“I am under the impression that he does not oppose reopening it, but he wants to have the proper timing,” Clovis Maksoud, the Arab League’s permanent representative to the United Nations, told reporters after a 35-minute meeting with Baker at the State Department.

But a State Department source said, “I do not believe that language was used.” Baker “explained that our position has not changed,” the source said.

On Sept. 15, 1987, the United States ordered the PLO to close its Washington office by Dec. 1 of that year, a decision upheld by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Since then, however, PLO leader Yasir Arafat has renounced terrorism and recognized Israel’s right to exist.

Baker said Thursday that to reopen the office is “within the discretion of the president, who has to certify that the PLO is not a terrorist organization,” Maksoud said.

KADDOUMI WANTS TO VISIT U.S.

Maksoud also announced that Farouk Kaddoumi, the PLO’s political director, wants to visit the United States “sometime after the Ramadan feast,” which ends May 5.

But he said he did not ask Baker about granting a visa to allow the PLO official to enter the United States. Last fall, the United States barred Arafat from coming to New York to address the United Nations.

The meeting with Baker was arranged at the request of the Arab League two weeks ago, the State Department source said. Accompanying Maksoud at the meeting were North Yemen’s ambassador to the United States, Mohsin Alaini, and Kuwait’s ambassador, Sheikh Saud Nasir al-Sabah.

On the fate of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Arab League delegation informed Baker that it considers Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s proposal for elections in the territories “part of a charade,” Maksoud said.

The elections “are intended to undermine the mandate and the representative character of the PLO,” he added.

He said he told Baker the Shamir plan “was intended to frustrate the international outrage concerning the practices of Israel in the occupied territories.”

The State Department source said Baker “reiterated his belief that the idea has merit” and that “those committed to peace should not dismiss it.”

Baker asked Maksoud about the PLO’s application for full status in the World Health Organization and other specialized U.N. agencies.

Said Maksoud, “We consider this to be a right of the Palestinians, and we are going to proceed with these discussions within the United Nations.”

NEXT STORY