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Reagan Administration Rejects Declaration As Unilateral Act

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The Reagan administration rejected Tuesday the declaration of an independent Palestinian state by Yasir Arafat, chief of the Palestine Liberation Organization, saying it was not a positive step toward peace in the Middle East.

“You can’t determine the status of the West Bank and Gaza by unilateral acts of either side, but only through the process of negotiations,” State Department spokesman Charles Redman said.

Arafat made his declaration early Tuesday to the Palestine National Council in Algiers.

Redman would not answer questions on the status of Jerusalem, but U.S. policy has been that while the city must remain united, its final status can only be determined through negotiations.

Both Redman and White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said the administration would not comment on the PLO’s new program until it was able to study the texts.

But Fitzwater said it had “positive elements,” if, as reported, the PNC accepted U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.

Redman only said that it would be “a positive step” if there were explicit recognition of the two resolutions.

The Reagan administration has supported Israel in opposing a Palestinian state. President-elect George Bush, during his presidential campaign, reiterated this position before the B’nai B’rith International in September.

Both Redman and Fitzwater said U.S. policy will continue — Washington will not have any dialogue with the PLO unless it accepts the two U.N. resolutions; recognizes Israel’s right to exist; and renounces terrorism.

This has been U.S. policy since 1975, when then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger formalized them in an agreement with Israel.

Redman would only reiterate that “direct negotiations must be at the heart of the negotiating process. Palestinian participation is required at every stage of negotiations.

“All participants in the negotiations must renounce violence and terrorism, and each must agree to negotiate on the accepted international basis of U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.”

In New York, American Jewish groups reactions to the PNC’s acceptance of 242 were expected to echo Israel’s scorn and the U.S. State Department’s position that the Palestinians have not done enough to warrant international trust or negotiating status. Theodore Ellenoff, president of the American Jewish Committee, said in a statement that the PNC’s “so-called recognition of Israel’s right to exist is couched in language so vague and ephemeral as is the proposal of an independent state.”

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