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As US Bans Iran Ambassador, ICP Asks of 1988 Arafat Ruling, 1953 Precedent

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 11 -- For days the UN spokespeople have resisted saying if the US blocking Iran's nominee to be Ambassador to the UN would violate the UN's own agreement with the US as Host Country.

  On April 11, when the US said "we have informed the United Nations and the Government of Iran that we will not issue a visa to Mr. Aboutalebi," Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric if the UN's legal opinion in 1988 that the US had a duty to let Yasser Arafat in still applies. Video here.

That is, since the Host Country Agreement hasn't changed, why hasn't the UN simply reiterated its precedential ruling on Arafat? Is the only difference the change in Secretaries General? Or the end of the Cold War and seemingly uni-polar world, or at least uni-polar UN?

Dujarric said that it's that neither the US nor Iran have asked for a ruling. But the US informing the UN of its decision should trigger some statement. Here is the 1988 (and 1953) background:

From the "Statement by the UN Legal Counsel concerning the determination by the Secretary of State of the United States of America on the visa application of Mr. Yasser Arafat, made at the 136th meeting of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country, on 28 November 1988," undocs/org/A/C.6/43/7:

2. [...] As you know, sections 11, 12 and 13 of the Headquarters Agreement provide, inter alia, that invitees of the United Nations shall not be impeded in their access to the Headquarters district, that this applies irrespective of the state of bilateral relations of the host country and that the necessary visas "shall be granted ... as promptly as possible".

10. For the record, I wish to state that the United Nations has not acquiesced in such a practice. It is true that, on certain occasions, the United States has declined to issue visas to representatives of States or to persons invited to the United Nations, and the United Nations has not insisted where the requesting State itself, for reasons of its own, did not pursue the matter. The United Nations legal position regarding the obligation of the host country to grant visas has at all times been perfectly clear to the host country, as was the United Nations position with respect to the so-called security reservation...

12. To sum up, I am of the opinion that the host country was and is under an obligation to grant the visa request

Even further back, document E/2397 of 10 April 1953 explains that:

"Section 21 of the Headquarters Agreement establishes the procedures for handling any such dispute. If the dispute is not settled by negotiation or other agreed mode of settlement, it “shall be referred for final decision to a tribunal of three arbitrators, one to be named by the Secretary-General, one to be named by the Secretary of State of the United States, and the third to be chosen by the two, or, if they should fail to agree upon a third, then by the President of the International Court of Justice.”

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