The Palestine Liberation Organization today took on and defeated six U.N. guards, four undersecretariesgeneral and Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim over a piece of choice turf in a U.N. corridor where the PLO flag was planted.
"The Secretary-General's writ does not even run in the U.N.'s corridors," said Israeli Ambassador Yehuda Blum, whose protests led to a six-hour siege that failed to dislodge the PLO.
The occasion was the U.N.'s annual Palestinian Solidarity Day, which features a meeting focusing on the Palestinians.
This year, U.N. television stationed a camera crew outside the conference room to interview diplomatic participants. As a backdrop, the crew put up a sizable Palestinian flag and a map of the Middle East that focused on a country identified as "Palestine," while omitting Israel completely.
The Israelis, protesting the presence of both map and flag, alerted William Buffum, a former American diplomat who serves as undersecretary-general for General Assembly affairs.
He in turn called Yakushi Akashi, the undersecretary for public information, who had provided the TV crew.
Akashi, escorted by six uniformed security guards, tried to remove the offending symbols, but was told by chief PLO representative Zehdi Labib Terzi that he would "use force if necessary" to prevent them from being taken down, according to one of the security guards.
At this point, Blum called Waldheim, who said he was aware of the problem and was trying to resolve it, according to Israeli spokeswoman Judith Dranger.
Shortly thereafter, four undersecretaries, including Buffam, Akashi and Brian Urquhart, who runs the U.N. peace-keeping forces, conducted an unsuccessful sortie against the map and flag.
In theory, Waldheim controls the U.N. premises, but in practice he does not command the U.N. majority.
This is especially true at a time when he is running for reelection. In fact, the Security Council was holding a closed meeting in the chamber next to today's bit of diplomatic theater to discuss ways of breaking the deadlock between Waldheim and Tanzanian Foreign Minister Salim A. Salim.
One U.N. public information official admitted privately that the use of the television crew and its props was "illegal and a violation of U.N. rules."
The flag and map remained on display until the ceremonies ended tonight