ROME (Jun. 14)
The funeral yesterday of Enrico Berlinguer, leader of the Italian Communist Party, provided a platform for Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat and an occasion for meetings with President Sandro Pertini and other top government officials.
The peripatetic Arafat, who has been on the move since his ouster from Lebanon last year by Syrian backed PLO dissidents, turned up in the Piazza San Giovanni where the cortege began. He found a seat on the reviewing stand between Mikhail Gorbaciov, No. 2 man of the Soviet Communist Party and Chinese Premier Zhoo Ziyange. Like the others, he raised his arm in a clenched fist salute to the thousands of Italian Communists who crowded the plaza.
Arafat was received later by Premier Bettino Craxi and Foreign Minister Giulio Andreotti. He also met with Francesco Cossiga, President of the Italian Senate. He was received by Pertini this morning.
According to a PLO statement issued here, the Italian President “reiterated his support for the Palestinian people, its right to self-determination and an independent state.”
Arafat met Andreotti accompanied by Farouk Khadoumi, the PLO’s foreign policy spokesman. According to an official communique, the Italian Foreign Minister expressed “the interest of Italy” in Arafat’s proposal for “direct contacts between Israel and the PLO” but emphasized “the necessity of an explicit recognition of Israel by the Palestinian movement.”
ANDREOTTI ASKS RELEASE OF ISRAELIS
The communique said Andreotti asked Arafat to release Israeli soldiers held prisoner by the PLO in Lebanon. Arafat thanked Italy for its interest in the Palestinian problem and particularly for the assistance offered Palestinian civilians by the Italian contingent in the now defunct multinational force in Beirut.
The Andreotti-Arafat encounter was their second in two years. Andreotti invited the PLO chief to Rome in September, 1982 when he was President of the International Interparliamentary Union holding a meeting there.
More recently, Andreotti and a representative of the Communist Party were the only two of a 12-member Italian delegation to the European Parliament who signed an anti-Israel resolution last April. Andreotti has spoken of the PLO, in the Italian Parliament, as a “point of reference” in the Middle East and has supported Arafat as preferable to his rival, Abu Mussa, as the political leader of the Palestinian people.