ATHENS (Jan. 16)
Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat said here last week that his only problem with Israel is “that Israel will not accept peace.”
He conceded that not all factions of the PLO are ready for peace. But “we have a bigger majority in the PLO than the Israeli government has,” Arafat declared at a news conference during a 24-hour visit here last week.
He came here for talks in advance of his scheduled Jan. 24 meeting in Madrid with the European Community “troika” assigned to deal with the Middle East conflict: the foreign ministers of Spain, France and Greece.
Arafat got an enthusiastic welcome from Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, who said he fully supported an independent Palestinian state and was sure it would materialize.
Papandreou noted that his ruling Socialist party has always backed Palestinian aspirations. “We will continue the struggle until an independent state emerges and begins functioning,” he told Arafat.
The PLO chief also met with Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias, whom he will see in Madrid next week, along with the Spanish foreign minister, Francisco Fernandez Ordonez; and Foreign Minister Roland Dumas of France.
Arafat was relaxed and good humored at his news conference. He acknowledged that “we have our differences of opinion” in the PLO. “There is a minority with its own views, but we are a democratic organization,” he said.
Asked what are his problems now with Israel, Arafat replied: “My first problem is that Israel will not accept peace, my second problem is that Israel will not accept peace, my second problem is that Israel will not accept peace, my third problem is that Israel will not accept peace, and my 10th problem is that Israel will not accept peace.”
He repeated his renunciation of terrorism in all of its forms, including “state terrorism.”