Rome (Jul. 30)
The Vatican is in regular contact with the Palestine Liberation Organization, according to PLO chief Yasir Arafat. “There is a constant exchange of correspondence between ourselves and responsible people at the Vatican,” Arafat said according to an interview published July 23 in the Milan daily, 11 Giorno.
He was referring to the recent violence in the Middle East toward which the attitude of the Holy See is “without doubt a positive one,” Arafat said. He lauded the Vatican because “it has condemned the aggressive acts to which the Palestinian and Lebanese people have been subjected (as it) condemns the violations which are perpetrated at Jerusalem.”
Arafat’s praise apparently was motivated by two editorials in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, at the height of the fignting across the Israeli-Lebanon border. One, on July 17, called for restraint by all parties. Another on July 18, criticized Israel for its massive air attack on PLO headquarters in Beirut the day before which took a heavy toll of civilian lives.
Arafat accused the United States of “complicity” in Israel’s June 7 attack on Iraq’s nuclear reactor. His “irrefutable proof” was “the decision by Washington to furnish Israel anew with F-16 jet fighters.” But the U.S. has embargoed the planes and no announcement has been made as to when they might be shipped to Israel, Arafat, in his interview in 11 Giorno, also accused U.S. special envoy Philip Habib of “trying to put in place a conspiracy” that amounts to “the continuation of aggression” against the Palestinian people.
Habib engineered the cease-fire agreement of July 24 which ended the fighting across the Israel-Lebanon border. But Arafat was quoted as urging the Arab oil producing states to refuse to accept U.S. dollars in payment for their exports in order to protest American support of Israel.