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U.N. Pleased, U.S. Mum over Ruling by World Court on PLO Mission

April 28, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The United Nations on Wednesday welcomed the World Court ruling that the United States must submit to arbitration over its decision to close the Palestine Liberation Organization’s observer mission in New York.

American officials declined comment on the ruling, but Caroline Dulin, a spokeswoman at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, said Wednesday, “The World Court ruling was premature because the matter is still in litigation.”

The International Court of Justice issued its unanimous, 12-page ruling on Tuesday, which is described by officials as “advisory,” meaning that it has moral and judicial weight but cannot be imposed on the United States government.

The United Nations had appealed to the court after Congress passed a law in December closing the PLO mission and the group’s information office in Washington. The United Nation’s argument was that under the 1947 Headquarters Agreement between the world body and the United States, the PLO has a right to a presence in New York because it has observer status at the United Nations.

In Washington, at a State Department briefing Wednesday, spokesman Charles Redman said, “We have just received the text of the ICJ’s opinion along with the separate opinion of several of the judges. We are presently reviewing them. As a consequence, I don’t have any comment at this stage.”

The Reagan administration, based on previous statements, apparently would never consent to international arbitration of the matter.

When Charles Cooper, assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, announced March 11 that the department would enforce that legislation, he said unequivocally that the United States would never agree to international arbitration of the dispute, since “international law has been superseded by the statute” adopted by Congress. His office is charged with enforcing federal legislation.

Cooper said the Supreme Court has consistently upheld Congress’s right to “abrogate” international law for the benefit of enforcing domestic law.

On Wednesday, Redman was asked whether previous State Department comments that it does not feel bound by World Court rulings still apply. “I don’t know of any reason to change previous statements,” he responded.

U.N. spokesman Francois Giuliani said Tuesday that the World Court ruling confirmed that the United Nations was right in demanding to submit the dispute between the United States and the United Nations to arbitration.

He said that Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar will submit a report on the issue to the General Assembly after he receives the text of the World Court opinion.

(Contributing to this report were correspondents Yitzhak Rabi at the United Nations, Howard Rosenberg in Washington, and Edwin Eytan in Europe.)

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