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Palestinians Snub Americans by Staying Away from Meeting

A high-level American diplomatic delegation was disappointed when only four of 15 Palestinian leaders invited to meet with them showed up Saturday at the U.S. consul general’s residence in West Jerusalem.

The Americans had hoped to sound them out on the Palestinian elections Israel proposes to hold in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Some of the absentees sent the visiting Americans letters explaining why they did not attend the meeting. Observers, reading between the lines, detected a deliberate snub.

They recalled that former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz was similarly snubbed when he tried to arrange meetings with Palestinian personalities during the height of his shuttle diplomacy here in 1988.

The American team is headed by Dennis Ross, director of policy planning at the U.S. State Department and a close aide to Secretary of State James Baker.

A few of the 11 who did not show up told American reporters that they agreed to meet with the delegation later in the week, presumably after it returns here from visits to Jordan and Egypt.

But they said the meeting would have to be held in East Jerusalem.

One of the leaders who did attend, Mayor Elias Freij of Bethlehem, said the Palestinians accepted the Israeli election idea “in principle,” on condition that the balloting is conducted under “international supervision” and is approved by the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Freij also insisted that “East Jerusalem is part of the occupied West Bank” and its Arab residents therefore should be allowed to vote.

Israel considers East Jerusalem indivisible from the rest of the city and part of Israeli soil.

The Americans met Saturday with Vice Premier Shimon Peres, head of the Labor Party, at his home in Tel Aviv. They called on Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir immediately after Sunday’s Cabinet meeting.

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