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Cheysson to Visit Israel, Egypt

Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson will visit Israel and Egypt, Elysee Secretary General Pierre Beregovoy announced today. The date for the Foreign Minister’s trip has not yet been fixed and officials here believe it will probably take place next October. Israel’s Ambassador to France, Meir Rosenne, is due to meet Cheysson next week to arrange for a tentative date and his program.

The decision to send Cheysson to Israel and Egypt was reportedly taken by President Francois Mitterrand who is upset by the wave of unrest and protests which has swept through part of the Jewish community and Israel’s friends. The president of the major pro-Israeli friendship organization, Gen. Jean Lecompte, who heads the France-Israel Alliance, yesterday wrote Premier Pierre Mauroy to protest what he considers to be the government’s pro-Arab slant and called for Cheysson’s resignation.

Jews were also upset by Cheysson’s scheduled meeting next week with Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat and by the endless stream of Arab dignitaries visiting the Elysee while no direct contacts on a ministerial level have been established with Israel since Mitterrand’s election last May.

The French President conferred today at lunch with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Hamad. After the meeting, a French spokesman said that Mitterrand had said that certain elements in the Saudi Arabian peace plan, as proposed earlier this month by Crown Prince Fahd, contained “positive elements.” Elysee spokesman Beregovoy quoted Mitterrand as saying, “Peace is always preferable to war.”

Mitterrand is due to meet at dinner tonight with Jordan’s King Hussein, the second Arab king he will meet since his election. He conferred with Saudi Arabia’s King Khaled in June.

The French President is due to leave next month for an official visit to Saudi Arabia and Cheysson is leaving Friday for a trip to Jordan, Lebanon and Syria where he is due to confer with Arafat. Beregovoy told reporters today, “The Minister is interested to meet Palestinian leaders on condition, however, that the meeting takes place under favorable conditions.”

This statement apparently referred to the current Franco-Palestinian dispute on the meeting’s site: The French want Arafat to call at the French Embassy, as he did in 1974 when he conferred with then Foreign Minister Jean Sauvagnargues, while the Palestinians want to have Cheysson call on Arafat at PLO headquarters in Beirut. The meeting might finally take place on “neutral ground” in Damascus which Cheysson is due to visit next week.

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