WASHINGTON (Feb. 28)
As promised, the United States complained to a Palestine Liberation Organization official Tuesday about an attempt last week by three members of a PLO splinter group to infiltrate Israel.
State Department spokesman Charles Redman confirmed Tuesday that Robert Pelletreau Jr., the U.S. ambassador to Tunisia and the sole U.S. official allowed to talk to the PLO, met with Hakam Balaoui, the PLO representative in Tunis.
“This meeting was originally requested by Mr. Balaoui,” Redman said. “But in view of last week’s action in south Lebanon, we felt it important to get our views across on that particular incident to the PLO.”
Pelletreau inquired about the intentions of the three would-be infiltrators, all members of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who were shot dead by the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army.
Redman would not discuss Balaoui’s response. The spokesman also could not say if any other issues were discussed at the meeting. A State Department source said late Tuesday he had no additional information on the meeting.
Redman was not prepared to say that the infiltration attempt, as well as a similar incident Feb. 5, violated one of the conditions of the U.S.-PLO dialogue: that the PLO refrain from acts of terrorism.
“We do not condone those types of operations,” Redman went as far as saying, “and we have views on what is proper and not proper, and those have been expressed” by Secretary of State James Baker.
POSITION ON PEACE CONFERENCE
“We said from the very start that there were going to be things that would have to be addressed on a case-by-case basis, and that’s what we are doing,” Redman said.
“As we see the various cases that arise, we are making our views known directly to the PLO, and that’s what happened in this case.”
Redman was asked if the U.S.-PLO dialogue bars the PLO from retaliating against Israeli attacks. He responded by quoting Baker as saying, “Attacks against Israeli civilian and military targets inside or outside of Israel are contrary to the peaceful objectives of the dialogue.”
Redman, who has been nominated to be the next U.S. ambassador to Sweden, also reiterated the U.S. position on a Middle East peace conference. “We continue to believe that direct negotiations are the objective in the Middle East.”
He added, “We have said for quite some time now that if there is a constructive role for an international conference on the road to direct negotiations, that we are willing to take a look at that.”
Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze strongly advocated a peace conference last week, during his meetings in Cairo with Israeli and Arab officials. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir firmly opposes such a conference, favoring direct negotiations instead.