BRUSSELS (Sep. 7)
Yasir Arafat will not address the 518 members of the European Parliament during his visit to Strasbourg next week.
But the Palestine Liberation Organization chairman is expected to hold important meetings with the president of the parliament, Lord Plumb of Great Britain, and top European Community officials.
Arafat will come to Strasbourg on Tuesday as a guest of the Socialist bloc in the European Parliament. He will meet several pro-Arab members of parliament before addressing a news conference on Wednesday.
According to PLO officials, Arafat is likely to make important declarations during his visit.
The chairman of the Socialist bloc on Tuesday defended his role in initiating the Arafat visit, the first by a PLO leader to an E.C. institution.
In a letter to the president of the European Jewish Congress, Theo Klein, and to leaders of the France-Israel Alliance, Rudi Arndt of West Germany expressed his “understanding” for what he called the “emotional indignation” surrounding the Socialists’ invitation to Arafat.
But he asked the Jewish leaders to respect his group’s position that discussions with Arafat may serve the cause of peace and justice in the Middle East.
He reminded the Jewish groups that European Socialists had previously met with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. He said the Socialists are “for Israel’s right to exist” and “are defending peace and freedom for the Israelis.”
The Jewish groups have criticized the Socialists’ initiative “to invite the leader of a terrorist organization.” French Jewish organizations have announced plans to demonstrate in Strasbourg on Tuesday, the second day of Rosh Hashanah, when Arafat arrives.
A Jewish group in Strasbourg has announced an anti-Arafat demonstration in the form of a commemoration service for the victims of PLO terrorism.
In Bonn, meanwhile, well-informed diplomats said that Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias of Greece will meet with Arafat, but not in Papoulias’ capacity as chairman of the European Council of Foreign Ministers.
The diplomats said Tuesday that other European Council members blocked an Athens initiative to make the meeting a major breakthrough by labeling it an encounter between the PLO leader and the chairman of the council.
Instead, Papoulias will meet Arafat under a bilateral framework.
Last June, Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, a firm supporter of the Arab cause, vowed to E.C. ministers that he would launch a major initiative for an Arab-Israeli settlement.
The representatives of Greece are currently holding the rotating chairmanship of European political institutions.