U.S. is Waging an Uphill Fight Against PLO Bid to Join UNESCO

The United States is lobbying strenuously to keep the Palestine Liberation Organization out of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

But its position is not quite as strong as it was two weeks ago, when an American threat to withhold its budgetary assessment successfully blocked a PLO bid for full membership in the Geneva-based World Health Organization.

The United States walked out of UNESCO in 1985 to protest its anti-Western, anti-Israel bias and general mismanagement.

It had stopped paying dues even before then.

The U.S. position that it will never rejoin if the PLO is admitted does not therefore carry the same urgency as did the possible loss of the $73.9 million American contribution to the WHO’s fiscal 1990 budget.

Nevertheless, UNESCO’s present director general, Frederico Mayor Zaragoza, has been striving to secure America’s return since he took office two years ago. If he succeeds, Britain and Singapore, which walked out in 1986, may also reconsider.

A senior member of the U.S. Senate, Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), met with Mayor here on Monday. He reportedly told Mayor that the Senate would vote overwhelmingly against an American return to UNESCO if the PLO were admitted.

Moynihan, a member of the Senate Foreing Relations Committee, conveyed the same message to the president of UNESCO’s executive board, Jose Israel Vargas of Brazil, whom he also met with here.

The executive board will examine the PLO’s request for admission on June 19. A favorable recommendation would send the matter to UNESCO’s general conference this fall.

Moynihan’s discussions with the UNESCO officials were duplicated last week by John Bolton, the U.S. undersecretary of state for international organiztions.

Bolton, who directed the fight against the PLO’s admission to the WHO, warned that its entry into UNESCO “would put an end to any negotiation aiming at bringing America back.”

The PLO’s formal application earlier this month to join UNESCO, like its earlier bid for membership in the WHO, was part of a campaign to gain international recognition for the independent “state of Palestine” it proclaimed last year in Algiers.

The PLO’s request was backed by seven African and Asian countries, including Egypt.

UNESCO requires a two-thirds majority for membership, unlike the WHO, where a simple majority would have sufficed. Nevertheless, the PLO stands a better chance in Paris than it did in Geneva, veteran diplomatic observers here now say.

They point out that the American threats are not as potent. While UNESCO has much to gain from an American return, it has nothing more to lose if the United States decides to stay out.

Moreover, while the director general of the WHO and his staff were intent on barring the PLO to preserve their organization, the director general of UNESCO is neutral.

Observers say that 30 of the executive board’s 51 members openly favor the PLO’s admission and that more than a two-thirds majority for the PLO exists in theory at the general conference.

NEXT STORY