WASHINGTON (Mar. 13)
The State Department on Tuesday denied media reports that Secretary of State James Baker would meet with Yasir Arafat when the two are in Namibia next week.
Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler was asked if there was a possibility of either a formal or informal meeting with the Palestine Liberation Organization leader.
“None,” was her curt reply.
Baker and Arafat will be attending a midnight Independence Day ceremony March 21 for the former South Africa-controlled trusteeship, once known as Southwest Africa.
Seymour Reich, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said Tuesday he did not believe Baker would meet with Arafat.
Malcolm Hoenlein, the conference’s executive director, said he had received similar assurances from the Bush administration.
The PLO has sought to have a meeting with the secretary of state ever since the United States opened a dialogue with it in December 1988.
But the State Department has insisted that the only U.S. official who will meet with the PLO is Robert Pelletreau, the U.S. ambassador in Tunisia, where the PLO is headquartered.