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Arafat Can Only Visit Jerusalem if Invited by Israel, Government Says

Responding to rumors that Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat is planning to visit Jerusalem next month, Israeli officials are stating that the PLO leader will not be allowed to come here without an official invitation from the Israeli government.

Police Minister Moshe Shahal, replying to the rumor Thursday, said that an official who holds a political appointment on behalf of a national group cannot visit another state without such an invitation.

According to news reports, Arafat is due to visit the autonomous Jericho district on June 15. PLO officials quoted in the reports did not say how long he would remain in Jericho, but they did indicate he will visit the newly autonomous Gaza Strip as well.

During his stay in Jericho, Arafat is expected to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who plans to be in the region at that time.

Israeli officials are meanwhile closely following the progress of Arafat’s appointments to the 24-member Palestinian Authority that will be responsible for Palestinian affairs in Gaza and Jericho.

ARAFAT SEEKING TO INCLUDE FUNDAMENTALISTS

Hanan Ashrawi, who previously served as PLO spokeswoman, has reportedly decided to accept Arafat’s nomination to the authority.

Earlier this month she rejected Arafat’s invitation to join, saying she would devote her time to a Palestinian human rights organization.

Twenty members of the council have so far been nominated.

Arafat is reported to be attempting to include officials from the fundamentalist Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements, but has so far been unsuccessful.

A senior PLO spokesman said in Jerusalem on Thursday that the authority would start operating “soon” and that this would improve the somewhat chaotic situation now prevailing in Gaza and Jericho.

In a related development, there was concern in Israel this week over reports that two members of Arafat’s mainstream Al Fatah movement who were wanted by Israeli authorities for killing a settler were about to join the ranks of the Palestinian police. Israel is maintaining its right, under the terms of the declaration of principles signed in Washington last fall, to reject recruits to the police force it deems unsuitable.

“We reserve the right to reject those police we feel are inappropriate, and we are checking into the two,” Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s spokesman, Oded Ben-Ami, said Thursday.

He added that Israel has already exercised its veto power over other proposed recruits to the Palestinian police force.

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