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Harvard Law School




On November 26, 1988, the United States denied a visa to Yasir Arafat, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), when he sought to enter the United States to attend the forty-third session of the United Nations (UN) in New York. The denial rekindled a forty-year-old dispute between the United States and the UN over the extent to which the United States may, under the terms of the Agreement Between the United Nations and the United States of America Regarding the Headquarters of the United Nations (Headquarters Agreement), restrict entry to persons seeking to enter the country for UN business.

The Headquarters Agreement, enacted in 1947,1 establishes the boundaries of the UN "headquarters district" in New York City and allocates to the United States and the UN spheres of authority over this district. 2 United States federal, state, and local laws apply within the district except in the areas of UN control specified in the Headquarters Agreement. 3 The UN may promulgate regulations operative within the headquarters district to provide for the execution of UN functions.4 If any United States federal, state, or local law is inconsistent with these regulations, the UN regulations are to prevail.5 Any dispute between the UN and the United States over whether a particular UN regulation is authorized by the Headquarters Agreement, or whether a particular United States law is inconsistent with an authorized UN regulation, is to be resolved by an arbitration panel pursuant to Section 21 of the Headquarters Agreement. 6



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