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WHO PUTS OFF DECISION ON WHETHER TO ADMIT PLO

Under U.S. prodding, the World Health Organization on Friday shelved until next year a decision on whether to admit the PLO's self-declared state of Palestine as its 167th member.

The vote dashed PLO hopes of winning voting rights in all major U.N. agencies this year after its legislature in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, last November proclaimed the "State of Palestine."The WHO annual assembly voted 83-47 in a secret ballot in favor of a resolution co-sponsored by nine Western and Third World countries. It coupled the deferral with a call for more aid to residents of Israeli-occupied lands, where a Palestinian uprising began 17 months ago. Twenty members abstained.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John R. Bolton told reporters, "We are pleased that the international community has effectively rejected the PLO's application for membership."

The Soviet Union joined in supporting the resolution. Soviet Health Minister E.I. Chazov told the assembly earlier that Moscow wanted to find a "solution avoiding confrontation ."

Fathi Arafat, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization observer delegation and a brother of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, said the resolution means "you will all stand behind us next year. You will all vote so that we may assume our role of peace in all the international organizations."

Earlier, the meeting refused to consider Nicaraguan amendments that would have effectively turned the proposal into a call for the PLO's immediate admission.

The voting followed more than four hours of procedural wrangling.

Nearly 100 countries have recognized the state of Palestine or at least acknowledged its proclamation.

The United States, which is contributing $74 million - or 25 percent - to the WHO's regular budget in 1989, threatened to withdraw all payments to any U.N. agency admitting the PLO as a full member.

All 21 Arab countries backed the application of the PLO, which now holds only non-voting observer status in the U.N. agencies.

WHO Director General Hiroshi Nakajima, a Japanese physician, had pleaded in vain with Yasser Araft to withdraw his application for membership or at least put it off until the next assembly. Nakajima said a cutoff of U.S. funds would "completely destroy" the agency.