The General Assembly voted 151-2 to condemn the United States for not letting Yasser Arafat enter the country and gave it until tonight to reverse the decision. U.S. officials said they would not budge.
If Arafat, the PLO chairman, is not granted a U.S. visa, Arab nations will offer a resolution to reconvene the General Assembly in Geneva so Arafat can address it. Diplomats said passage was assured.The United States and Israel opposed Wednesday's condemnation. Britain abstained because it said the criticism was too harsh, but all other U.S. allies supported the denunciation.
The vote was conducted in a rare and dramatic roll call, requested by Jordan.
In a departure from the standard electronic voting, delegates voted in the official U.N. languages: Arabic, English, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish. They called out "Na'm," "Yes," "Zan Cheng," "Oui," "Da," "Si," and in the case of Israel and the United States, "No."
Absent from the roll call were Dominica, Grenada, Paraguay, St. Kitts, Nevis and South Africa.
The resolution asked U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar to inform the General Assembly by Thursday night of the U.S. response. Secretary of State George P. Shultz said the United States would not change its mind.
The State Department denied Arafat a visa on security grounds, saying he condones and encourages terrorism perpetrated by the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Arafat had said he wanted to explain to the General Assembly the position taken by the Palestine National Council in its recent meeting in Algiers. The council - the PLO's parliament in exile - implicitly recognized Israel's right to exist, accepting key U.N. resolutions on the Middle East calling for negotiations with states in the region.
Iraqi Ambassador Ismat Kittani said if Arafat does not receive a visa, "it will constitute a grievous blow to the process of peace in the Middle East."
"I feel very pained to see that the United States is the odd couple with Israel in the United Nations," said Clovis Maksoud, ambassador of the Arab League, which sponsored the resolution.
"We are hopeful the international outcry against the U.S. position will jolt the subsequent U.S. administration into a reassessment of its policies of bias toward Israel," he said.
Arab diplomats said they would quickly introduce a resolution to shift the General Assembly to Geneva in mid-December.