Peres Proposes Weapons-free Mideast, Holds Meetings on Deportation Issue

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres urged the Arab states this week to join in establishing a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction.

Addressing an international conference on chemical weapons proliferation here Wednesday, Peres urged the creation of a “mutually verifiable zone, free of surface-to-surface missiles and of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.”

Israeli willingness to include nuclear weapons in arms control considerations evidently opened the way for Arab states to participate in the signing here of an international treaty banning chemical weapons.

Earlier, the Arab states had said they would stay away from the chemical weapons conference because of Israel’s refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But according to sources here, all of the Arab countries of northern Africa — including Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and even Libya — have now agreed to sign the Convention for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

And sources here say that Jordan, Oman, Kuwait, Yemen and Mauritania are expected to follow suit.

On another front, Peres met here Wednesday evening with U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in an attempt to resolve the deadlock over the fate of more than 400 Moslem fundamentalists Israel expelled to Lebanon last month.

The meeting took place as Arab states began lobbying for U.N. sanctions to be applied against Israel for its failure to comply with a Dec. 18 Security Council resolution calling on the Jewish state to return the deportees to the administered territories.

‘LOOKING FOR A SOLUTION’

Peres told reporters he had discussed several alternative courses for resolving the issue during the half-hour meeting and that further discussions would take place. He declined to elaborate.

“We are looking for a solution” he said, explaining that Israel does not want to be on a “collision course” with the United Nations.

But he added that the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement, to which many of the deportees belong, “must not come out a winner and appear to be getting a prize.”

Peres put forward the same point of view in earlier meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and with the foreign ministers of China, Italy and the Netherlands.

Dutch Foreign Minister Peter Kooijmans said he was sorry his first official act after taking office last month was the cancellation of a planned visit to Israel by Dutch Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin, in protest over the deportations.

Initiative for the cancellation came from Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers at the request of Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat.

Peres met Wednesday night with French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas.

The Israeli foreign minister also was honored with the Personality of the Year Award, which was presented to him by the speaker of the French National Assembly, Henri Emmanuelli.

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