PLO Evicted From D.C. Office

The Palestine Liberation Organization has been evicted from its downtown Washington office for failure to pay rent.

Hassan Abdel Rahman, the PLO's chief representative in Washington, confirmed the eviction Thursday and said the reasons were political.

He acknowledged that rental payments had been in arrears but said similar problems in the past had been resolved amicably with the landlord. This time, he said, the landlord would not negotiate.

He attributed the eviction to widespread sympatsentiment is making life a little bit difficult for us," he said. The eviction is part of an effort "to isolate and shut off the Palestinian voice." In effect, the landlord said, "No, we don't want you," Rahman said, adding that his aides have been looking for new quarters.

The office has been the scene of anti-Palestinian demonstrations from time to time but Rahman said he did not believe those activities were responsible for the eviction.

The property management company, Cushman & Wakefield, said the PLO was in arrears in its rent payments over an extended period for the second time in less than a year.

This resulted in a "judgment for possession" that led to the PLO's vacating the property on April 6, the statement said.

A State Department official, asking not to be identified, said the eviction did not come about as a result of any action by the U.S. government.

He said the PLO office is not considered an embassy and has never been accorded any of the immunities or privileges of a diplomatic mission.

The question of rental payment between the PLO and its landlord is not subject to U.S. government regulation, the official said.

A 1987 law barred the PLO from keeping an office in Washington but that prohibition was waived in 1994 by the Clinton administration following breakthroughs in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The Bush administration has continued to waive the provision as a means of supporting a negotiated settlement.

The State Department official said the administration believes it is important to permit the PLO to continue to operate in Washington.