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The Arafat Visa Affair: Exceeding the Bounds of Host-State Discretion, 83 American Journal of International Law 519 (1989)


The U.S. refusal to permit Yasir Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, to attend the 43d annual meeting of the General Assembly in New York was almost universally condemned as a violation of international law. Because Arafat publicly complied, on December 14, 1988, with the conditions the United States had long prescribed as prerequisite for direct contacts with the PLO, many have tended retroactively to validate the refusal to grant the visa, as a pragmatic and legitimate technique of diplomatic suasion. Consequently, it is all the more urgent that the record of international legal violation be confirmed, lest the refusal be cited, in the idiosyncratic fashion of international law, as precedent for future violations. Such a development would hasten the deterioration of the regime of restraints on the discretion of host states and reduce the effectiveness of resident international organizations.

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