France Reconsidering Its Plan to Help Greek Ships Evacuate Arafat

France has decided to reconsider its initial plan to provide naval escorts for the Greek ships due to evacuate PLO chief Yasir Arafat and his men out of Tripoli. The French, who had reportedly promised to provide several of their warships now stationed off the coast of Lebanon for this mission, now have asked Israel to promise not to fire at the Greek ferries which will fly the United Nations flag.

French official sources say Israel has been contacted through diplomatic channels and no final decision on the matter will be taken before the French government will have Israel’s reply.

Several prominent Palestinian leaders close to Arafat, now trapped in Tripoli, visited Paris this weekend to ask Paris to keep its initial pledge. Among these Palestinians was the PLO head of Foreign Affairs, Faruk Kaddumi.

The French officials say they are “convinced” that Israel will not fire at the Greek vessels but President Francois Mitterrand has decided to first wait for the Israeli reply.

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