WASHINGTON (May. 1)
The American Jewish leadership welcomed Secretary of State James Baker’s warning Monday that the United States would withhold funds for any United Nations body that gives the Palestine Liberation Organization full membership.
In a statement read by State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler, Baker said he would recommend to President Bush “that the United States make no further contribution, voluntary or assessed, to any international organization which makes any change in the PLO’s present status as an observer organization.”
Baker’s warning comes one week before the World Health Organization is scheduled to convene for its annual assembly in Geneva. On the agenda is a proposal to grant the PLO’s declared state of Palestine full membership in the U.N. body.
The United States contributes about 25 percent of the agency’s budget, with its 1990 fiscal year contribution set at $73.8 million, Tutwiler said.
On Sunday, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued a statement calling on the Bush administration to formally notify the WHO that the United States would cut off all funds if it votes to admit the PLO.
On Monday, even as the statement was being delivered to news organizations, the conference’s wish appeared to be granted.
Seymour Reich, who chairs the conference of 46 national Jewish groups, said in a telephone interview Monday that he was “gratified” by Baker’s opposition to any “back door admission” of the PLO to the United Nations.
WHO CHIEF EN ROUTE TO U.S.
In Geneva, meanwhile, the director general of the WHO, Hiroshi Nakajima, departed Monday for Washington, where he is expected to discuss the subject with administration and congressional officials.
Nakajima is said to be concerned that there is no way to stop the motion to admit the PLO, which is expected to receive the votes needed to pass from Third World nations. He reportedly fears that a U.S. decision to cut off funds would seriously impair the agency’s work in combating disease around the world.
Reports from Geneva said Nakajima would meet Wednesday with Baker. But in Washington, Tutwiler said Monday that no meeting was planned. She indicated that the WHO director general might meet with others in the State Department.
Nakajima is to confer Tuesday with various members of Congress, including Reps. Gus Yatron (D-Pa.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee with jurisdiction over the United Nations, and Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.), one of the senior Republicans on the overall committee, Capitol Hill sources said.
The proposal to admit the PLO to the world health body also came up Monday at a new round of talks in Tunis between the United States and the PLO. Tutwiler provided few details of the session, saying only that it was a “real meeting” and not a “telephone call” or “contact.”
The United States “vigorously opposes” admission of the PLO as a full member to any U.N. body, Tutwiler said. She said that the secretary of state feels “very strongly” that PLO admission would harm the Middle East peace process as well as the “U.N. system.”
Western European allies support the U.S. decision, Tutwiler said. When asked if that included France, which PLO leader Yasir Arafat is due to visit Tuesday, Tutwiler responded, “My understanding was that it was with all of our allies.”
On Capitol Hill, Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Robert Kasten (R-Wis.) are circulating a letter to Bush urging that “the United States government at the highest level immediately and strenuously emphasize to all parties” the “implications of according the PLO the status of member state.”
The senators say in the letter, which may be sent by the end of the week, that they cannot “overemphasize the gravity” of the U.S. sanctions against U.N. agencies should they recognize such a state.
Leahy, Kasten and 36 colleagues had written to Baker on April 13, threatening that Congress might take “punitive” actions against U.N. agencies that recognize the Palestinian state the PLO has proclaimed.
In the House, Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) introduced a bill last week that would withhold U.S. funds to U.N. bodies that grant full membership to a Palestinian state.
Baker also raised the subject with Clovis Maksoud, the Arab League’s permanent representative to the United Nations, at a meeting April 27.
The secretary told Maksoud “how strongly we feel about this and that we were prepared to take this step that I have announced today, “Tutwiler said.