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PLO Insists Deportees Will Sail

February 12, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Palestine Liberation Organization representatives insisted here Thursday that a ship carrying several hundred Palestinian deportees and sympathizers would sail for Israel within 36 hours.

The vessel, still unidentified, was scheduled to sail Wednesday from Piraeus, the port of Athens. Several hundred local and foreign reporters and television camera crews have been awaiting the voyage since it was announced by the PLO on Jan. 29, and they are beginning to have serious doubts it will take place. So far they have heard only anti-Israel diatribes from Bassam Abu Sharif, PLO chief Yasir Arafat’s media spokesman, and Fuad Bitar, the PLO representative in Athens. They have not been told the name of the ship, the flag it will fly or the hour of departure.

“We have the boat and we will sail as soon as it will be ready, and that will be approximately within 36 hours,” Sharif said at a news conference, his second in two days. Asked if the vessel is in port, he replied only that “the boat is here.”

The PLO spokesmen blame their reticence on alleged threats by Israel against the ship’s master and crew. Israel has already made clear that the ship will not be allowed to enter its territorial waters.

A Greek government spokesman, Sotiris Kostopoulos, reiterated Thursday that the government cannot legally deny any ship the right to sail if it complies with safety and other regulations.

He did not say whether the Greek authorities know which ship the PLO claims to have chartered.

Reporters apparently are tired of idling here between packed press conferences at which little substance is disclosed. “They are using us for one of their own public relations stunts,” one reporter said Thursday.

The PLO apparently is getting the message. It announced its second reception in 24 hours for the deportees, to which journalists have been invited.

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