PARIS (Apr. 4)
Yasir Arafat arrived here from Tunis on Wednesday for meetings with French officials and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
French President Francois Mitterrand announced unexpectedly Wednesday afternoon that he planned to join Carter and the Palestine Liberation Organization leader late Wednesday evening for an overall review of the Middle East peace process.
Carter, who has been on a fact-finding tour of the Middle East on behalf of President Bush, now becomes the highest-ranking American personality with whom Arafat has met.
Mitterrand formally received Arafat in Paris last May, the first Western chief of state to do so.
PLO circles in Paris are hailing the meeting as a major diplomatic breakthrough, symbolic of the international recognition the PLO now enjoys.
Jewish groups here, angry about the meeting, staged protests outside Arafat’s hotel.
Mitterrand announced his plans shortly after Carter and Arafat landed at different airports.
They were scheduled to meet at Carter’s hotel suite and later drive to the Elysee Palace to dine with Mitterrand.
Dinner was scheduled for a late hour to accommodate Arafat, who is observing the Moslem fast of Ramadan and cannot eat before sundown.
Arafat landed in Paris sporting khaki fatigues, his traditional kaffiyeh and a broad smile. He was greeted by the full Arab diplomatic corps, including the Egyptian ambassador, and a representative of the French government.
BETAR STAGES SMALL PROTEST
Security arrangements were described as “normal” by the authorities. Uniformed police and security guards were far fewer in number than on Arafat’s last visit 11 months ago.
The PLO chief’s first official meeting Wednesday was with the French foreign minister, Roland Dumas, apparently to prepare for his sessions with Carter and Mitterrand in the evening.
When Arafat came to Paris in May 1989, thousands demonstrated to protest his visit, and press and television newscasts reflected the public’s displeasure.
This time the presence of the PLO chief and his high-level meetings are being treated almost routinely.
Fewer than a dozen Jewish demonstrators stood outside his hotel. The French branch of Betar, the militant Zionist youth group, said it planned a demonstration outside Carter’s hotel in the evening.
Jean Kahn, president of CRIF, the Representative Council of French Jewish Organizations, asked for a meeting with Carter to express French Jewry’s unhappiness over his meeting with Arafat.
But Carter apparently will not be able to receive a CRIF delegation because of his short time in Paris.
Arafat is scheduled to leave Thursday for Rome for a two-day visit at the invitation of the Italian government.
His agenda includes a meeting with Pope John Paul II and government leaders.