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U.N. May Meet over American Decision to Close PLO Offices

February 11, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Arabs nations and the Palestine Liberation Organization will ask for a special meeting of the General Assembly in Geneva next month if the United States persists in its decision to close the PLO’s observer mission to the United Nations, according to diplomats here.

But unconfirmed news reports Wednesday quote diplomats as saying the meeting could be called here as early as next week. However, a U.N. spokesman said Wednesday that no date has been set for the meeting.

The General Assembly would consider a resolution to request that the United States appear before the International Court of Justice in The Hague to explain the decision for closure, diplomats say.

According to some reports, PLO chairman Yasir Arafat would attend the meeting in Geneva which never has hosted a General Assembly session – in an attempt to attract international media attention.

President Reagan signed legislation last Dec. 22 to close both the PLO information office in Washington and the observer mission in New York. The information office was closed at the beginning of December by order of Secretary of State George Shultz. The PLO is appealing the decision, with a court hearing set for Feb. 23.

The Arab countries and the PLO are supported by Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar in their claim that the closing of the observer mission violates the 1947 Headquarters Agreement governing the United Nation’s relation with its host country, the United States.

Perez de Cuellar sent a letter to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Vernon Walters several weeks ago challenging the legality of the decision to close the PLO observer mission.


Arab diplomats at the United Nations have made it known in the last few weeks that if the mission is closed, they intend to ask Perez de Cuellar to provide the PLO delegation with offices and living quarters in the U.N. headquarters itself. The headquarters is an international territory not governed by U.S. law.

But observers and diplomats said this week that they doubt the request would be granted, because there is no precedent and the building does not contain living quarters.

The New York Times reported last Friday that the State Department’s legal adviser, Abraham Sofaer, is pressing Attorney General Edwin Meese to delay the closing of the PLO mission.

Sofaer reportedly said in a letter to Meese that closing the mission would be viewed by the international community as a violation of international law and could harm new U.S. efforts to reach a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Sofaer suggested that Meese agree to binding arbitration in the dispute by a three-member tribunal with the participation of the United States, the PLO and a third party agreed to by the two principals. However, State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley later denied the report and said there was no dispute within the department over a request to delay the closing of the PLO mission.

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