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UNESCO Governing Body Considering ‘palestine’ Request for Admission

October 3, 1989
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Israeli diplomats are less optimistic than they were three months ago about quashing a bid by the Palestine Liberation Organization to obtain membership in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The UNESCO executive committee convened last week to consider the PLO’s request that the “State of Palestine” be admitted as a full member to the organization.

The 51-member committee, which serves as UNESCO’s governing board, is meeting here through Oct. 13 to set the agenda and draw up recommendations for the UNESCO General Conference, scheduled to convene in Paris from Oct. 17 to Nov. 16.

The PLO made its original bid for admission to UNESCO at a June meeting of the executive committee. The motion was introduced by seven Arab and African nations: Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Mauritania, Nigeria, North Yemen and Senegal.

But facing strong Western opposition and a U.S. threat to never rejoin UNESCO, the seven states watered down their request and agreed to resubmit it at the meeting now under way.

But delegates from the seven states have used the three-month recess to try to convince other Third World delegations to back the PLO bid. They argue that even if the bid were rejected, the United States would not rejoin UNESCO.


The United States quit UNESCO in 1985, protesting its anti-Western, anti-Israel stance and economic mismanagement. It has looked more favorably upon the organization, however, since the election two years ago of a new director general, Federico Mayor Zaragoza.

Mayor has been sympathetic to Israeli and Jewish issues and is now in a difficult position as organization head.

Western diplomatic sources say that the only move that could seriously stop the PLO offensive now would be an American pledge to rejoin UNESCO if the PLO bid were rejected.

But “we are a far cry from this,” a Western observer said.

Diplomatic sources say that even if the executive committee were to recommend the PLO’s admission, the bid might fail in the General Conference if a secret vote were taken.

They say that Western European delegates to the General Conference may undertake a legislative maneuver to make the expected vote on the PLO request tabulated by secret ballot.

Officials say many Third World nations would be more likely to vote against the PLO bid if their votes were kept secret.

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