Begin Surprised over Planned Meeting Between Netherlands Foreign Minister and Arafat

– Premier Menachem Begin expressed surprise today that Foreign Minister Christoph Van der Klaauw of The Netherlands plans to meet Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat during his current Middle East visit as chairman of the European Economic Community (EEC) Council of Ministers.

Begin told a group of visiting Dutch members of Parliament that the meeting with Arafat would be tantamount to recognition of the PLO. Van der Klaauw, who left Holland yesterday, is to meet with Arafat in Damascus tomorrow or Saturday. A Foreign Ministry spokesman in The Hague stressed yesterday that his contacts with Arafat did not imply Dutch recognition of the PLO but were strictly in Van der Klaauw’s capacity as chairman of the EEC which has undertaken its own initiative to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.

According to reports from Amsterdam, Van der Klaauw will meet Lebanese officials in Beirut today and return to Lebanon over the weekend before going on to Egypt.

Speaking to the Dutch parliamentarians, Begin also expressed his regret over the “hasty action” by some Dutch soldiers attached to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) who accused Israel last year of mutilating the bodies of five Palestinians killed in a battle with Israeli troops inside Lebanon. The accusations turned out to be false and both UNIFIL and The Netherlands government offered their apologies to Israel.

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