French Premier Says PLO is Not Palestinians’ Sole Representative

Premier Jacques Chirac of France said Tuesday that the Palestine Liberation Organization should participate in any Middle East peace negotiations, but not as the only representative of the Palestinians. He spoke at a news conference at the end of his three-day visit to Israel.

Chirac was reported to have told Premier Yitzhak Shamir when they met Monday that he has steadfastly refused to meet PLO chief Yasir Arafat “despite various pressures” brought to bear on him.

He said the PLO has lost ground in recent years but may still be one of the organizations representing the Palestinian people, though not their sole representative, a designation it has long claimed.

Chirac is also reported to have told Shamir that he has been working ceaselessly “for 10 or 12 years” to persuade the Syrian government to allow Syrian Jews to emigrate, but with no success.

“As long as no solution is found, I will not visit Damascus,” Chirac is reported to have said.

The French and Israeli leaders discussed measures to rectify the trade imbalance between their countries. Israel will have a $130 million trade deficit with France this year.

They also spoke of scientific cooperation. Chirac urged that the teaching of French be expanded in Israeli schools. He said Hebrew language courses in French schools have increased recently.

Chirac also met with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres Monday and reportedly found him to be still receptive to the idea of an international conference for Middle East peace.

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