107. Telegram 3421 From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State 1 2

Subj: Preliminary Comment on General Committee Action on Terrorism Item


  • USUN 3412
As reported reftel, SYG’s efforts at compromise Sept 21 and early Sept 22 did not bear fruit. As UN community gathered in GC chamber mid-morning, supporters of SYG’s initiative had little confidence that initiative could be inscribed in respectable form. UK and France were getting cold feet; Amb Bush spoke to them repeatedly. However, efforts at compromise had so heartened Arab-African group that they overplayed their hand. In particular, African spokesman, who had already pushed for “compromise” that would have sent item to barely honorable burial in ad hoc committee with no responsibility to take meaningful action within specified time-frame, began to threaten SYG and pro-items members that inscription of item would divide UN membership into two hostile camps for indefinite future.
In this situation informal caucuses on floor were arena of critical consultations. To US and Western European dels it seemed clear that UN was at least momentarily in serious crisis. Choice seemed to lie between caving to Arab-African efforts to emasculate item and chancing outright defeat on inscription. Either course could have resulted in humiliating experience for SYG and UN.
In consultations with key WE dels and with Secretariat, Amb Bush took line that compromise with opponents of item would merely generate increasingly intolerable pressures on Western community in UN. In response to this logic and to his own resentment of Arab-African assaults on prestige of his office, SYG not only abandoned further efforts at compromise but withdrew concessions already offered. SYG explained to General Committee his exhaustive efforts to find solution that could be supported by all members; he believed he had done all he could and had no further proposal to make. With dignity and in resolute tones, SYG said he would not withdraw.
Campaign of pro-item elements to retrieve situation immediately gained considerable momentum. With US and WES including France strongly committed, campaign took on sometimes explicit save-the-UN character. Critical factors included staunchness of LA members of GC, PRC inability to mount fast lobbying effort, equivocal position of Soviet Union (which did not lobby and ultimately abstained), encouraging statesmanship of individual dels including Rwanda and Cyprus as reported reftel, Amb Bush made strong speech in support of inscripition.
Outcome of GC vote somewhat strengthened prospect that GA plenary will uphold committee recommendations. We continue to feel, however, that maximum effort is required to send item to Sixth Committee with mandate that will hold out some promise of further forward motion. Arabs and AFs can be expected to make last ditch effort in plenary.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL 23-8. Confidential; Priority.
  2. Ambassador Bush reported that inscription of Secretary-General Waldheim’s terrorism item would likely fail.