In a preemptive diplomatic strike, the Bush Administration threatened Monday to end financial support of the United Nations if it approves an Arab plan to upgrade the status of the Palestine Liberation Organization from "observer organization" to "observer state."
"We feel so strongly about this that we will cut off funding," State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said.
An end to U.S. contributions, which traditionally cover one-fourth of the U.N. budget, probably would bankrupt the financially strapped organization. The United States is already far behind in its payments to the United Nations, but the organization can borrow money using the U.S. debt as collateral as long as there is a prospect that Washington will pay up eventually.
Clovis Maksoud, U.N. ambassador of the Arab League, said the Arab states would attempt to seat the PLO as a state, in effect giving U.N. recognition to the organization's 1988 proclamation of statehood. The move could come as early as this week, when the world body holds its annual debate on Palestine.
"It is unfortunate that the U.S. opposes such an inevitable development," Maksoud said. "A state under occupation is not precluded from being a state just because it is occupied."
At present, only Switzerland, North and South Korea, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican are recognized by the United Nations as observer states. The PLO is included in a larger category of observer organizations.