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Sharon Offers Temporary Refuge in Israel to Any PLO Fighters if They Can Prove They Are Not Terroris

Defense Minister Ariel Sharon told reporters in Beirut today that he stands by his offer to give temporary refuge in Israel to any Palestine Liberation Organization fighters now in west Beirut who can prove they have not participated in terrorist acts against Israel. He did not say what would constitute such proof. The PLO reportedly rejected the offer.

Sharon spoke to the reporters after meeting with U.S. special envoy Philip Habib who is trying to negotiate the departure of PLO forces from west Beirut and Lebanon. He said the problem was that no Arab country has agreed to accept the estimated 5,000-6,000 PLO men and their families.

Meanwhile, Israelis and Palestinians exchanged intermittent small arms fire in the Beirut area today which later escalated to artillery and tank fire. There were similar exchanges yesterday during which the Israelis claimed to have destroyed a PLO tank.