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State Dept. Taking Cautious View of Plo’s Reported Policy Shift

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The State Department warned Thursday against giving too much credit to news reports that the Palestine Liberation Organization has eased its conditions for accepting Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s peace proposal.

Such reports may be circulating to the media as “trial balloons or for other reasons,” State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said.

“History shows that one should not make judgment, policies or actions on what may be inaccurate or unauthorized statements,” she said. “We deal with official statements and actions as they are related to us through official channels.”

But Tutwiler said the Shamir plan is being taken seriously both inside and outside the Middle East.

“The United States is working on a realistic approach to the elections,” Tutwiler said. “We believe there is serious engagement on the Shamir election proposals.”

She did not explain what she meant by “serious engagement.”

The reports of a PLO shift were based on details of a meeting in Paris last week between Israeli and Soviet officials, as well as an American memorandum said to have reached Jerusalem.

According to the reports, the PLO would accept elections if Israel allowed Arab residents of East Jerusalem to participate, withdrew the army from population centers in the administered territories on Election Day and allowed a team of American and Egyptian observers to monitor the elections.

The PLO also would require that Israel state in advance of the elections its commitment to give up territory as part of a peace settlement.

NO SUCH U.S. MEMORANDUM

By contrast, the PLO had previously demanded that the Israeli army withdraw completely from the territories before the elections and be replaced by an international observer force.

The PLO’s more relaxed conditions were revealed in Israel Wednesday by two Israeli newspapers, the Jerusalem Post and Ha’aretz. They based their reports on what they said was a U.S. memorandum stating that the PLO had informed the United States it had agreed to the elections and was ready to name a negotiating team to work out arrangements with Israel.

But Tutwiler reiterated Thursday that there is no such U.S. memorandum. She said the United States had not given Israel any written documents detailing its seven-month dialogue with the PLO in Tunis.

The details of the PLO conditions were provided by Nimrod Novik, political adviser to Vice Premier Shimon Peres, who received them in Paris from Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Terrasov. The Soviet official met with Nimrod several days after meeting with PLO leader Yasir Arafat.

Tutwiler said the State Department had no comment on the PLO’s reported new position. Nor would she say what was discussed in Tunis Wednesday during an hour-long meeting between Robert Pelletreau, the U.S. ambassador to Tunisia, and Hakam Ballaoui, the PLO representative there.

But Tutwiler repeated U.S. objections to the PLO’s insistence that Israel agree, before elections are held, to give up land for peace. Such a position would make “progress impossible,” she said in an official statement.

The United States is opposed to any conditions that would prejudge the outcome of peace negotiations. For that reason, it also objected to the Likud Central Committee’s July 5 decision to impose tough new conditions on the implementation of the peace plan.

Those conditions, which Shamir supported, included barring East Jerusalem residents from participating in the elections and declaring that Israel would never give up additional territory.

While Shamir is still technically bound by those conditions, they have not been amended to the government peace plan. The Israeli Cabinet voted Sunday to reaffirm the peace plan in its original form, without the Likud conditions.

The plan calls for Palestinians in the administered territories to elect representatives to negotiate with Israel on the terms of an interim autonomy settlement and, eventually, the final status of the territories.

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