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Peres Says Soviets Would Join Mideast Conference Without PLO

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Tuesday that the Soviet Union will try to involve the Palestine Liberation Organization in an international conference for Middle East peace, but would be ready to join such a conference itself without PLO participation. Peres, appearing before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, indicated that Israel’s condition for Soviet participation–resumption of diplomatic relations with Israel–would be no problem.

He quoted a statement Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev made to Italian leaders that if this was the only obstacle, “then it will be no obstacle.”

Peres said Moscow would prefer to delay a Middle East peace conference until 1988, an election year in the U.S., which would give it time to maneuver the PLO into the process. However, he said Israel must agree now to an international conference.

“If we persist with our opposition, in two years the U.S. will be without a peace policy for the Middle East,” he said.

Laborite Minister Ezer Weizman, a strong advocate of an international conference, said one must be convened “sooner or later” because it is the only way to reach a peace settlement with Jordan and the Palestinians. According to Weizman, who spoke at a meeting of the International Peace Center Tuesday, the purpose of a conference would be to “pave the road” to return the administered territories to Arab sovereignty, implicit in the Camp David accords.

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