PARIS (Nov. 28)
America’s European allies are expressing surprise and anger over the U.S. State Department’s refusal of a visa to Yasir Arafat and are demanding explanations.
The Palestine Liberation Organization chief wants to come to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly.
His visa application was rejected Saturday by Secretary of State George Shultz, who cited Arafat’s record of support for terrorism, including terrorist acts against Americans.
France already has asked the United States to reconsider. A statement published Sunday evening by the Foreign Ministry was easily one of the most critical of American policy in recent years.
In Rome, the Italian Foreign Ministry summoned the U.S. Embassy charge d’affaires, John Holmes, for consultations Sunday.
In an official statement, the ministry expressed Italy’s “great astonishment” at the U.S. decision and hoped it could be changed.
In London, the news media quoted an unnamed government adviser as saying the U.S. decision was “unfortunate if it inhibits moderation in the Middle East.”
The Western European governments clearly see domestic political motivations behind the American stand.
That was echoed by French radio and television, which charged that the American administration pays more attention to Israel’s friends in Congress than to the situation in the Middle East.
IMPERILING PLO ‘MODERATION’
The Europeans also argue that Washington has rejected and thereby imperiled the new “moderation” they detected at the Palestine National Council meeting in Algiers earlier this month.
It was there that the PNC, the PNC, the PLO’s so-called parliament, accepted U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which imply recognition of Israel.
The French Foreign Ministry statement observed that Arafat’s visit to New York would be “particularly desirable at the moment, when the position voiced by the PNC marks an evolution that needs to be encouraged by the international community.”
The communique pointed out that the Palestinian leader has appeared before the United Nations in New York in the past.
At the Vatican meanwhile, Pope John Paul II reiterated his support for both Israeli and Palestinian national homelands.
Although he has said this before, the remarks at his weekly address following Mass on Sunday were interpreted as indirectly supportive of the new Palestinian position.
They were his first allusion to the subject since the PNC meeting in Algiers and were delivered against the background of Christmas preparations and a United Nations-sponsored “day of solidarity with the Palestinians.”
The pontiff called on “the parties involved” to “seek a way of putting an end as quickly as possible to the suffering of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as of thousands of their refugee brothers.”
(JTA correspondent Ruth E. Gruber in Rome contributed to this report.)