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Israelis, Arabs, Scheduled to Participate in Conference on the Middle East

The repeatedly postponed Bologna Conference on Peace in the Middle East will take place in Bologna this May, conference sources said following a preparatory meeting here last night. The conference sources also indicated that a list of invitees would be prepared by an international subcommittee from the recommendations of various national committees including Israel, Egypt and Lebanon.

The Conference was originally called by an international committee formed more than two-and-a-half years ago in Cooperation with the Italian Communist Party and the left-wing Egyptian Peace Council. It is expected to be attended by Israelis and other Jews as well as by delegates from European countries. Italian sources said today that the Palestine Liberation Organization has also decided to send delegates.

According to the sources, the PLO decided to do so by a majority vote at its congress in Cairo a week ago. It is the first time that the PLO will participate in a conference attended by an Israeli delegation. Italian sources said the PLO apparently agreed because the Israeli delegation will be composed entirely of persons who subscribe to the Security Council Resolution 242 and the 1970 General Assembly resolution calling for the safeguarding of the rights of the Palestinian people.

Circles close to the conference said recently that the Mapam party, a member of Israel’s coalition government, may send representatives in an official capacity. Certain individual members of Mapam and of Mapam-affiliated organizations outside Israel are scheduled to participate and one of the various national committees preparing the conference is located in Tel Aviv.

However, strong objections have been registered by the Arab participants, not against Mapam members appearing at the conference but against their coming officially as members of an Israel government party. The Arab delegates apparently fear that their position at home might be jeopardized if they participate in a conference attended officially by Mapam.

No final decision has been taken by the conference, But the Italian hosts are said to believe that anyone who subscribes to Resolution 242, the basis of the Bologna Conference, should be allowed to participate. Not all of the parties involved are left-wing. The coordinator of the French Committee for the Bologna Conference is a Catholic priest of the Dominican order, Father Maurice Barth.

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