WASHINGTON (Mar. 7)
President Bush urged Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat on Tuesday to speak out against acts of terrorism.
“I’d like to see him forthrightly condemn any terror that might be perpetrated by the Palestinians,” Bush said at a White House news conference.
The president said he was not accusing Arafat of condoning or furthering terrorism. “But I would like to see him speak out,” he said. “It would do wonders, it would be very good for future dialogue.”
Although the United States has complained to the PLO about two recent attempts by PLO groups to infiltrate Israel, Bush did not threaten to break off U.S. talks with the PLO. However, he said that “to the degree terrorist acts are condoned, it doesn’t help the dialogue.”
The New York Times reported Tuesday that Egyptian officials had failed to persuade Arafat to condemn the recent infiltration attempts. He reportedly told the Egyptians that he could not do so because of internal politics within the PLO.
On human rights, Bush said that the United States will continue to press the Soviet Union for improvements, although it might not be the first item on the agenda of bilateral talks.
“It may not be the first thing, but it’ll be high on the agenda,” the president said. He said Secretary of State James Baker, who met with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze in Vienna on Tuesday, “will continue to raise it.”
Bush seemed to reject the contention of the Reagan administration that human rights had been the first item on the agenda in every meeting that President Reagan had with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
“I don’t recall it always being the first thing, because the last meeting I attended with him (Reagan) and Mr. Gorbachev it was raised, but it wasn’t the first thing,” Bush said.