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Arafat Invited for First Time to Address European Parliament

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Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasir Arafat has been invited to visit the Parliament of Europe in Strasbourg.

He will be there Sept. 13 and 14, when the 518-member assembly, the European Community’s legislative body, is in full session.

The invitation, the first ever to a Palestinian leader, was extended by the Socialist bloc, the largest single faction in the parliament. Rudi Arndt of West Germany, the faction leader, explained why.

“After having had a very useful meeting with Shimon Peres, we thought it would be appropriate to hear Yasir Arafat’s opinion, as chairman of the PLO, on the situation in the Mideast,” Arndt said Tuesday.

Peres, Israel’s foreign minister and chairman of the Labor Party, met with European Community leaders in Brussels in May.

Arndt added, “We hope that the meeting peaceful and can help us in our endeavor to find peaceful and lasting solutions to the Mideast problems, an issue on which Europe should play a more active role.”

Informed sources here said Arafat will not address the European Parliament, inasmuch as he was invited by one of its factions, not by the full body.

Observers here noted that the invitation was announced a day before the parliament was scheduled to vote again on ratification of three economic and trade agreements Israel signed last year with the 12 nations of the European Community.

In a vote last March, the assembly rejected ratification. It was seen then as a calculated rebuff to Israel for its handling of the Palestinian uprising. But there is a good chance the agreements will be ratified on Wednesday, observers believe.

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