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Head of E.c. Executive Commission Proposes Mideast Economic Conference

The president of the European Community’s Executive Commission has proposed convening a conference on economic cooperation in the Middle East as a first step toward what he described as the establishment of a “common market” for Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Jacques Delors made the comment at a Euro-Israel dinner held here on Nov. 25.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and his Belgian counterpart, Willy Claes, were among those attending the dinner, whose purpose was to demonstrate the support of European Jewry for closer economic, scientific and cultural links between Israel and the E.C.

“I have proposed the convening of a conference to which concerned political leaders, businessmen and intellectuals would be invited in order to look into the possibilities of Mideast cooperation in a spirit of goodwill,” said Delors.

Delors, a former French Cabinet minister and a potential candidate in France’s next presidential election, said he had already discussed the proposal for a Middle East economic conference with Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat and with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Arafat visited Brussels earlier this month.

Delors is likely to have a chance to discuss the proposal with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who is scheduled to visit Brussels next week at the invitation of the European Parliament, the E.C.’s legislative body.

“This conference should be the first step to creating a sort of Mideast common market for water resources, energy and infrastructures,” Delors said.

Peres made a similar suggestion when he traveled to Holland the following day.

After his visit to Brussels, Peres attended a global forum conference attended by political leaders and economists. The conference was held last Friday in the southeastern Dutch city of Maastricht.

In an interview on Dutch television, Peres said that Israel wants to achieve full economic cooperation with its Arab neighbors, establishing an economic triangle of interdependence similar to that currently in place among the Benelux nations: Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

(Contributing to this report was JTA correspondent Henriette Boas in Amsterdam.)

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