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Visiting British Official Urges Israel to Check for Shift in PLO

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A British diplomat who recently met with Yasir Arafat in Tunis has urged Israel to “explore whether there has been a genuine shift” by the Palestine Liberation Organization and if it is possible to have a “dialogue without endangering security.”

William Waldegrave, minister of state at the Foreign Office, told a meeting of the Israeli Council on Foreign Relations here that the PLO may not, in fact, be seeking an independent Palestinian state.

“It is worth remembering that the Palestine National Council, the PLO’s parliament in exile, has declared that its ultimate objective is a confederation with Jordan,” he said.

He implied that Britain favored that too, saying, “A third (Palestinian) state would not be our preferred solution.”

He recommended a “non-coercive” international conference to resolve the Middle East conflict. “We would not be a party to a coercive conference,” and it would not work, he said.

Waldegrave, whose six-day visit to Israel was to end Monday, is the highest-ranking British diplomat ever to have met Arafat. He said there were no plans for Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to meet with the PLO chief.

Waldegrave met with Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Foreign Minister Moshe Arens and Vice Premier Shimon Peres during his stay in Israel. Shamir will visit Britain in a few weeks, and British Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey How plans a trip to Israel in the first half of this year.

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