United Nations (UPI)

The nonaligned nations Monday quietly withdrew their proposal to invite to PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat to address the 40th anniversary session of the General Assembly, apparently because of strong U.S. pressure, diplomatic sources said.

Assembly President Jaime de Pinies of Spain announced at the start of the commemorative part of the assembly session the sponsors of a draft resolution to invite Arafat and Namibian rebel leader Sam Nujoma “do not intend to press their resolution to a vote.” There was no challenge

or comment from the assembly floor. Diplomatic sources said the United States and some Western European countries expressly asked the sponsors not to call for a vote.

One diplomat, who declined to be identified, said the United States threatened that President Reagan would call off his address next week if Arafat were invited.

A U.N. official was asked if the move would prevent visits by Arafat and Nu president of the South West Africa People’s Organization.

“They could come, but they are not invited,’ he replied.

India, Iraq, Kuwait, Nigeria, Senegal and Yemen introduced the draft motion a week ago, just before the capture of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro by Palestinian gunmen.

As the Achille Lauro drama unveiled, there was feverish lobbying over the invitation. Pressure was exerted by anti and pro Arafat powers.

De Pinies spent more time in his office behind the rostrum than at the dais of the assembly hall, trying to persuade both factions to avoid an open confrontation over the issue with a roll call vote and acrimonious debate.

The commemorative part of the assembly session opened Monday with the speech by the president of Botswana and will end Oct. 24, the 40th anniversary of the date the U.N. Charter went into force.

Reagan is to speak Oct. 23. The Palestine Liberation Organization and SWAPO enjoy observer status at U.N. headquarters but appearances before the assembly by their heads are by special invitation of that body.

Nujoma, who for 20 years has led the fight against South African rule in Namibia, also known as South West Africa, has spoken to the assembly several times.

The only time Arafat addressed the United Nations was in November 1974, at the 29th General Assembly session presided over by Algerian Foreign Minister Abdel Aziz Bouteflika.

Arafat’s visit that year made headlines. He was flown into and out of the U.N. compound by helicopter and a gun holster could be seen at his belt as he spoke to the assembly.

Article extracted from this publication >>  October 18, 1985