Israel Denies Arafat Claim Shamir Approved PLO Contacts

Yasir Arafat claimed in an Italian newspaper interview that Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir sanctioned Israeli government contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization and that one of Shamir’s representatives met recently in Vienna with a senior PLO member.

In Israel, aides to Shamir described the allegations as “nonsense” and “lies.”

In an interview from PLO headquarters in Tunis, published Monday in Rome’s Il Messaggero, Arafat said a member of the PLO executive committee met in Vienna with “a representative of the Likud Central Committee, who came as a delegate from Shamir.” The PLO chairman refrained from giving further details of the session.

Arafat also disputed Shamir’s claim that the PLO had nothing to do with the prime minister’s recent secret meetings with Palestinians in the administered territories. He said the PLO had sanctioned the meetings.

Arafat claimed Shamir is “putting on all this show” in order “to open a dialogue with the PLO apart from the U.S. administration, which he is trying to trick.”

Arafat said that “Shamir knows full well that there are no Palestinians in Palestine or outside Palestine who do not support the PLO.”

His comments appeared to refute remarks made by Shamir in an interview last week with the news weekly Panorama. “I don’t want to talk with the PLO because of the ideology of this organization, which continues to practice terrorism,” Shamir was quoted as saying.

Shamir also told the magazine that the U.S. talks with the PLO, which have been taking place in Tunis since December, “do not help the prospects of peace.

“We think that the United States is conceding too much importance to the PLO people. In this way, they weaken the moderate elements in the Arab world who do not think in the same way as the PLO,” Shamir said in the interview.

PRAISES SENATE ACTION

Arafat said there were no results yet from the U.S.-PLO talks, but he expressed optimism.

Last Thursday, the U.S. Senate adopted legislation barring U.S. contacts with PLO members who have been involved in terrorist acts.

The measure was adopted three weeks after reports that the U.S. ambassador to Tunisia, Robert Pelletreau, had met with Salah Khalaf, Arafat’s deputy.

Khalaf, also known as Abu Iyad, founded the extremist Black September terrorist organization held responsible for the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. He was also implicated in the 1973 killing of the U.S. ambassador to the Sudan, Cleo Noel.

Arafat labeled as important the decision by Congress to reject an all-out curtailment of the dialogue with the PLO. “It’s a very positive sign,” he said.

Arafat also predicted that the Palestinian uprising would continue unabated, and that the residents of the territories were not tiring of the intifada, as they call their uprising.

“The situation is terrible. But there is the will and the determination to carry on the intifada until the end of the occupation,” he said.

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