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Arafat Remains Biggest Obstacle to Peace with Israel, Rabin Says

Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat remains the major obstacle to progress in the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said this week.

Rabin made the comment at a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday, as PLO leaders in Tunis discussed whether to attend the next round of bilateral peace talks in Washington, tentatively set for Dec. 7.

Reports from Tunis said the deliberations were divided between those counseling a boycott until the Clinton administration takes over in Washington and those favoring continued Palestinian participation in the talks.

The head of the Palestinian delegation to the talks, Haider Abdel-Shafi, was quoted as telling reporters in Tunis on Sunday: “We are still discussing the matter, but there is a tendency to go.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres expressed confidence Sunday that the talks would continue.

Rabin said Arafat’s deleterious influence is felt and resented both by the local Palestinian leadership in the administered territories and by his own followers in Tunis.