WASHINGTON (Sep. 27)
Nearly a dozen members of the Palestine Liberation Organization have been granted U.S. visas in order to attend this fall’s U.N. General Assembly session, but Yasir Arafat is not among them, the State Department disclosed Wednesday.
Arafat reportedly has not yet decided whether to apply for a U.S. visa.
State Department deputy spokesman Richard Boucher said that “visas have been authorized for members of the PLO delegation to the U.N. General Assembly.”
When asked what makes Arafat, the PLO chairman, any different from the PLO officials who were granted visas, Boucher replied, “He hasn’t applied” for a visa yet.
The State Department will not say how it will respond if Arafat does apply for a visa.
The delegation authorized to come to New York includes Yasir Abed Rabbo, a member of the PLO’s executive committee who has led the PLO delegation that has been meeting regularly with U.S. officials in Tunisia this year. Rabbo has attended previous General Assembly sessions.
“We have authorized these visas for a number of years, consistent with our international legal obligation as host country to the U.N. and following a full legal review of the applications,” said Boucher.
The visas are good for the next three months. PLO members receiving them are restricted to traveling within a 25-mile radius of Columbus Circle in New York City, said a State Department visa expert.