PARIS (Sep. 13)
French sources said today that Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat will meet with President Francois Mitterrand as part of a top level six man Arab delegation selected by the Arab League summit conference in Fez last week to visit various world capitals to promote the Mideast “peace plan” drafted by the Arab leaders.
Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson said on a radio interview today that Mitterrand “will most certainly see Arafat when he thinks fit.” Asked if such a meeting would not raise a storm of protest among French Jews, Cheysson replied, “If Mr. Arafat comes to Paris, it would mean that there has been some progress toward peace.” The Union of French Jewish Students warned today that an Arafat Mitterrand meeting “would mean a split between France’s Jews and the government.”
In another development today, the Vatican Press Office told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Pope John Paul II will probably meet with Arafat this week to “demonstrate the Holy Father’s care for the Palestinian people whose sufferings and rights he raised several times in recent weeks.” Arafat is due in Rome Wednesday as an observer at the 69th Inter-parliamentary Union meeting which opens there tomorrow.
(The World Jewish Congress, which has protested a Pope-Arafat meeting, told the JTA in New York today that if it takes place it would be part of a general audience, not a private meeting. See separate story.)
In addition to Arafat, the travelling delegation appointed in Fez to explain the Arab position consists of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, King Hassan of Morocco, King Hussein of Jordan, President Chadli Benjedid of Algeria, and President Hafez Assad of Syria. They are expected to visit the capitals of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. It is not known whether the U.S. will accept Arafat as a member of the delegation.