GENEVA (Dec. 30)
Yasir Arafat is giving strong indications that he backs continued peace talks with Israel, despite its deportation of 415 Moslem fundamentalists to Lebanon.
The Palestine Liberation Organization leader told reporters here Wednesday he is still committed to peace, and he called on Palestinians in the administered territories to develop contacts with peace-oriented Israelis in the Labor and Meretz parties of the coalition government.
Arafat condemned the Israeli expulsions as “an ethnic act and a war crime.” But he also spoke out against such acts as the kidnapping and brutal murder of Israeli border policeman Nissim Toledano by activists of the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement.
Nevertheless, Arafat said the slaying did not justify the massive deportation to Lebanon of Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists, which occurred shortly after the incident.
Observers said his remarks appeared to signal continuing differences between the PLO and Hamas, which have long been rivals for Palestinian support in the territories but have recently shown unity in public over the deportation issue.
Hamas opposed the peace talks even before the Israeli expulsions. It would like the PLO to pull out of the negotiations, but so far Arafat has stopped short of slamming the door on the talks.
The Tunis-based PLO leader, who calls the shots for Palestinians negotiations directly with Israel, spoke after separate meetings here with U.N. Secretary- General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas.
Boutros-Ghali told reporters he was still awaiting a third and final report from his special envoy to the Middle East, U.N. Undersecretary-General James Jonah, before taking any further action on the deportees issue.
He suggested that one solution might be for Israel to allow the 415 deportees to return and imprison them, pending charges and trial.
Dumas said he suggested to Boutros-Ghali that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon look after the 415 deportees, pending a long-term solution. He said the U.N. secretary-general promised to look into that option.
At the United Nations in New York, meanwhile, Security Council members held informal consultations Wednesday on issuing a statement condemning Israel for failing to abide by a Dec. 18 resolution insisting that the deportees be returned. The consultations were expected to continue late into the evening.