80. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State 1

3473. Subj: Comite Four: Invitation to National Liberation Movements To Sit in Observer Capacity. Ref: USUN 3355.2

At its first meeting September 25, Comite 4, after agreeing to take up Portuguese territories, SR and Namibia separately and in this order, discussed letter from chairman of Comite 24 requesting Comite 4 to allow reps of liberation movements to participate in observer capacity in examination of these questions. No action was taken on [Page 125]letter. Action expected take place September 27 at Comite 4’s 10:30 meeting.
Re letter of chairman of Comite 24 (copy datafaxed UNP), South African and Portuguese reps protested granting observer status to liberation movements from Namibia and Port. Terrs. Portuguese rep requested legal opinion on this matter.
WE’s on Comite in slight disarray on this item. UK has instructions to oppose granting observer status to reps of liberation movements, but at same time sees that, if there consensus, it would simply make reservations that only administering powers can determine who reps of territories should be. French, Italians, and Scans are perplexed as to what position to take. Scans in particular are troubled by stand taken by Sweden re PAIGC when Comite 24 met in Conakry this summer. French and Italians are undecided on whether they should vote against or abstain on recommendation from chairman of Comite 24.
After meeting, MISOFF sought views of Tanaka (Secretariat) on chairman of Comite 24’s letter. According Tanaka, reps of liberation movements would be those recognized by OAU. Status given them would be glorified status of petitioner, but would allow them to participate in debate. There would be no name plates indicating their affiliation. Reps would be in a reserved section of Comite hall. Tanaka also said that he had sought legal opinion and that Stavropoulos’ office said that Comite was master of its own procedure and that any non-member could be invited in an observer capacity as long as he showed that he had a bona fide interest in the item under consideration. The granting of observer status would not confer any recognition on their status as either reps of the territories concerned or as a government. For these two latter points to occur, it would be necessary for Comite to adopt a res specifically changing status of individuals concerned. Reps would, however, be chosen in consultation with OAU and in fact national liberation movements represented would be those that are formally recognized by OAU. Understand from Tanaka that AF’s accept this interpretation of granting of observer status to national liberation movement reps.
In light of these considerations and unless AF’s do not seek put different interpretation on this question of granting observer status, US Del believes we can go along with granting observer status to these movements. Understand that there may be attempt to have consensus on matter. Believe, however, that in light of Portuguese and South African objections, matter may be pushed to vote. If there consensus, believe we could accept and perhaps make statement along lines outlined to MISOFF by Tanaka. If there vote, believe US can support with similar statement. If on other hand there attempt to reinterpret [Page 126]meaning of observer status, believe US should abstain, rather than vote against unless there appears be sufficient number of other dels outside of SA and Portugal voting against item. Request Dept’s views soonest.3
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 19 UN. Confidential; Priority.
  2. Document 79.
  3. The Department advised that Bush should vote against the proposal and seek support from other Western countries on the grounds that there was no precedent for granting special status to non-governmental entities, that further examination of the implications was necessary, and that the groups in question already had been able to receive a full hearing as petitioners. (Telegram 176468 to USUN, September 27; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 19 UN) The Fourth Committee, however, voted on September 27 to grant observer status to representatives of national liberation movements in Rhodesia, Namibia, and the Portuguese territories. The vote was 78 to 13 (U.S.), with 16 abstentions. (Telegram 3515 from USUN, September 28; ibid.)