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Without Action by Clinton, PLO Cannot Open U.S. Office

Adding to the complications surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian declaration of principles, the Clinton administration has not yet given permission for the Palestine Liberation Organization to open its office here.

After the Israelis and the PLO signed their historic agreement on Sept. 13, the administration encouraged a somewhat wary Congress to lift certain restrictions on U.S. dealings wit the PLO.

Members of Congress, many of whom were concerned about longtime PLO ties to terrorism, passed legislation that would temporarily waive some restrictions, including those relating to opening a PLO office here.

But President Clinton, who has final authority over the approval of the waiver, has not yet signed it.

“Legislative restrictions on PLO activities in the United States remain in effect,” a Jan. 3 State Department statement said. “Opening of a PLO office is contingent on the presidential waiver.”

A White House spokesman said Wednesday that the legislation had reached the White House, but that Clinton had yet to act upon it.

Sources in the Jewish community said this week they had not heard of any problems holding up presidential action. Mark Pelavin, Washington representative for the American Jewish Congress, said Wednesday that it was his understanding that there were no additional obstacles to opening an office.

A top Arab American official said he was concerned by the delay.

“It is a failure on our (the United States’) part to honor the spirit of what happened Sept. 13,” said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. “It should have been done months ago.” Zogby said he was not certain of the reason for the delay.

The Palestinians had previously maintained an office here, which the U.S. government ordered closed in 1987 because of U.S. concerns about PLO connections to terrorism.

High-profile Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi had been expected to take the position as the PLO’s Washington representative, but she recently announced that she would pursue human rights work in the territories.

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