WASHINGTON (Sep. 17)
Walter Fauntroy, the District of Columbia’s delegate in Congress, and Joseph Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), were in Lebanon today for a week’s visit to the Middle East to meet with Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat and President Elias Sarkis of Lebanon and “hopefully” later to confer with Premier Menachem Begin of Israel.
Heading a delegation of SCLC members sympathetic to a Palestinian state, Fauntroy and Lowery appear to have beaten Rev. Jesse Jackson, head of Operation PUSH, to the Mideast. Jackson last week, with the support of Rep. Paul Findley (R. III.), met Zehadi Labib Terzi, the PLO observer at the United Nations, in Findley’s office here and later said he was going to meet with Arafat.
He also met with Israel Ambassador Ephraim Evron prior to meeting with Terzi and asked the envoy to arrange a meeting with Begin. Evron said he would transmit Jackson’s request to his government in Jerusalem but emphasized that Jackson was not to visit there as a go-between for Israel and the PLO.
Jackson’s scheduled Mideast visit appeared uncertain today following a report in a Kuwaiti daily newspaper, As Siyassah, that outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the UN Andrew Young, Arafat and Jackson will participate in a “political debate” in Kuwait on the Palestinian situation. The newspaper did not disclose the date of the debate but said it would take place “shortly” and that all three would take part. Young earlier had denied he was to meet Arafat.
NOT CONDUCTING FOREIGN POLICY
A spokesman for Fauntroy, Eldridge Spearman, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Fauntroy was making the trip as chairman of the SCLC, and not as the District of Columbia’s representative in Congress. “He is not going on his own; he is not trying to conduct foreign policy,” Spearman said. However, he said Fauntroy will advocate that Israel
Fauntroy and Lowery left Washington last night for Beirut. With them were Lowery’s wife; Rev. Al Sampson of New York; Rev. Bernard Lee of Atlanta; Ron Walters, a political science professor of Howard University; and some photographers and writers, Spearman said. He said the SCLC group is going to the Mideast “in response to an invitation from the PLO on Aug. 22 and reaffirmed two or three times since then.”While in Lebanon they will visit the Arab refugee camps. The idea for the visit, Spearman noted, began when the SCLC met with Terzi in New York last month.
Spearman denied any Fauntroy-Lowery rivalry with Jackson. “They are not in conflict,” he stated. He said that a request to meet with Begin has been lodged with Israeli diplomatic officers but he was uncertain whether with the Embassy here or the UN delegation in New York.
In a related development, an organization known as “The Committee on Palestinian Human Rights” is seeking visas for two PLO members who have been refused documentation to come to a meeting here Sept. 20-22. The State Department has refused to provide a visa for Abdul Jawod Salah, a PLO official in Beirut, while Israel has refused a visa for Nablus Mayor Bassam Shaka, according to Department officials.