BRUSSELS (Jun. 19)
The European Community renewed contacts with Iraq and the Palestine Liberation Organization last week, for the first time since the Persian Gulf War.
The ties were made through the E.C.’s legislative body, the Parliament of Europe, based in Strasbourg, France.
The occasion was a meeting organized by former French Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson between members of the Parliament and delegations from nine of the 21 Arab League member states plus the PLO.
It was held in the Parliament’s Political Commission within the framework of the Euro-Arab dialogue.
The meeting was boycotted by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
On the European side, it was strongly disapproved of by the Socialist group, the largest single bloc in the 518-member Parliament, whose president, Jean-Pierre Cot of France, thought the Iraqis were overrepresented.
“This meeting looks like a Scud missile falling on Strasbourg,” he said.
The Gulf states stayed away because of the large Iraqi delegation. Sa’adi Mehdi Saleh, president of the National Assembly in Baghdad, was expected but did not appear.
A British Conservative deputy, Edward Kellet-Bowman, walked out. “I can’t talk with the representatives of a country with which my government is at war,” he said.
But Maria Cassanmagnago, an Italian Christian Democrat who chairs the Political Commission, praised the meeting and expressed hope that it would be repeated on a regular basis.
Cheysson, a Socialist with close ties to the Arabs, reportedly had a hard time dissuading PLO chief Yasir Arafat from coming to Strasbourg.
“It’s too early,” a close associate of Cheysson was quoted as saying.
The Palestine National Council, the PLO’s legislative body, was represented by Immad Shakkour and Zehdi Terzi.
In addition to Iraq, the Arab countries attending were Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.