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Bethlehem Mayor Nixes Autonomy Talks

Visiting Mayor Elias Freij of Bethlehem has come out against the autonomy plan currently being negotiated between Israel and Egypt. Freij, considered a “moderate,” told newsmen here today that “no Palestinian will agree to participate in the autonomy or self-rule projects under Israeli of Egyptian auspices.”

Freij, who is on a “private visit” to France, was received by Foreign Ministry officials and also conferred with several prominent politicians of the government and opposition parties. According to one reliable French source, “he managed to further strengthen our conviction that autonomy, as forseen by the Camp David agreement, will not work.” The French view on the question also seems to be spreading to other West European states. Delegates to the European Assembly, a consultative organization representing most West European countries, began a discussion of the Middle East question today despite Israeli opposition. The Assembly decided to set up a special subcommittee to study latest developments in the area.

The general trend during the discussion was one of doubt on whether an autonomy project can be worked out or implemented without Palestinian participation. Sources said that most delegates, including those from West Germany and Belgium, favored the inclusion of the Palestine Liberation Organization in any discussion concerning the future of the occupied territories.