WASHINGTON (Oct. 25)
House and Senate negotiators were expected late Thursday or Friday to decide the fate of a proposal to relieve Egypt’s $6.7 billion in U.S. debts.
They were also expected to consider a sweeping ban on U.S. contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization that would prevent the spending of U.S. funds to “support, enhance, develop or otherwise sustain contacts with the PLO or any of its constituent parts, persons, entities under its control or influence.”
The Bush administration strongly supports the debt-relief measure, but a pro-Israel activist speculated that the administration may be more willing to agree to terminate talks with the PLO, even though it believes it would impinge on presidential conduct of foreign policy.
The activist said the administration, in its desire to keep Egypt happy in the Arab coalition against Iraq, has “a much bigger fish to fry” with Egypt than with Arab states wanting the United States to talk to the PLO.
President Bush suspended the U.S. dialogue with the PLO on June 20, after the PLO refused to punish executive committee member Mohammed (Abul) Abbas, head of the Palestine Liberation Front, for attempting to attack Tel Aviv’s beach-front on Shavuot, May 30.
Both proposals are contained in the Senate version of the 1991 foreign aid appropriations bill. The Senate gave initial approval to the bill Wednesday, by a 76-23 vote.
It is now in the hands of a House-Senate conference committee, which began deliberations at noon Thursday.
Both measures were proposed too late to be included in the House version of the foreign aid bill, which was approved June 27 by a 308-117 vote.
President Bush proposed the debt-relief measure after Egypt’s weak economy was drained further by its support of the economic sanctions against Iraq for its invasion of Kuwait.