PARIS (Jul. 20)
Foreign Minister Jean-Bernard Raimond declined to pay a courtesy call on Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat during a trip last week to Tunis where Arafat currently has his headquarters. Arafat prudently left for Algiers on the evening of Raimond’s arrival to take the sting out of the snub.
Raimond’s disregard of Arafat’s insistence that he be treated with the protocol due a head of state was believed to be on strict instructions from Premier Jacques Chirac. Raimond’s three predecessors had always complied. The new French position is seen here as stemming from Chirac’s desire to improve re lations with Israel.
It is also believed to have followed from Chirac’s meetings last week with the Syrian Vice President, Abdel Khalim Khaddam, who has promised to try to obtain the release of seven French hostages held by terrorists in Lebanon. Syria supports an anti-Arafat group of PLO dissidents.