NEW YORK (Mar. 27)
PLO chief Yassir Arafat said tonight that he thought President Carter took “a progressive step” toward peace in the Middle East when he said recently that the Palestinians should have a homeland of their own. “We have to consider it a progressive step because for the first time the President of America put his hand on the core of the whole crisis in the Middle East — the Palestinians,” Arafat said in a taped interview broadcast on the CBS-TV “60 Minutes” program.
He also said that he viewed as “a very important signal” the invitation to the PLO delegation to attend a reception in honor of President Carter at the UN a week ago. The invitation, extended by UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, was described by the White House as having no political significance.
Arafat was evasive when asked if the PLO was prepared to recognize Israel’s right to exist. He repeated only that Israel has refused to recognize the PLO. Asked if he wanted to send a message to Carter about the possibility of PLO recognition of Israel, Arafat replied:
“I’ll say more important, more important than this, I’m telling him through you, through this television, I will make all my best (efforts) to help him settle a just peace in this area. All my efforts. Tell him that, all my efforts.” But the PLO leader refused to specify what efforts he might make, saying, “Leave the details when I will have the details from him.”