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PLO Leader Repeats Disavowal of Charter; Government Seems Satisfied

May 3, 1989

PARIS (AP) _ PLO chairman Yasser Arafat today repeated his disavowal of the organization’s charter calling for elimination of Israel, and government leaders indicated they were convinced of his sincerity.

Israel dismissed Arafat’s statements as ″rhetorical juggling,″ and hard- line PLO leaders expressed anger at the PLO chief’s comments.

Arafat, in a radio interview, said the 1964 charter has been ″superseded,″ presumably by the PLO’s November declarations that renounced terrorism and implicitly recognized Israel’s right to exist.

Asked why he did not simply say the charter was abrogated, Arafat said, ″It’s not up to me to say that. It’s a decision that must come from the Palestine National Council.″ The council is the Palestine Liberation Organization’s parliament-in-exile.

During a 90-minute meeting Tuesday, President Francois Mitterrand pointed out the contradiction between the November declarations and the charter, said presidential spokesman Hubert Vedrine.

In a television interview Tuesday evening, Arafat used the French word ″caduc″ to refer to the PLO charter. ″Caduc″ means outdated, or null and void.

Government spokesman Louis Le Pensec, briefing reporters on today’s regular Cabinet meeting, said Mitterrand told his ministers he had ″noted that we are seeing a beginning of this clarification″ sought in Tuesday’s talks.

Premier Michel Rocard, who met today with Arafat, agreed, saying Arafat’s statements constitute ″a positive clarification moving toward peace.″

The two sides discussed ″the perspectives of a process of negotiation that could lead to peace, of an international conference on the Middle East, as well as solutions and guarantees which could come from the diverse parties involved,″ Rocard said.

George Habash, head of the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, one of the hard-line PLO factions, said he was ″horrified″ by Arafat’s comments regarding the PLO charter.

″We shall show Arafat and the world that the PLO charter remains very well alive,″ Habash said. ″Arafat has no right to take such decisions.″

Ovadia Sofer, Israel’s ambassador to France, called Arafat’s statement a ″rhetorical juggling.″

″The security of the region and Israel should not depend on the media stunts of a terrorist like Yasser Arafat,″ Sofer said.

Since the new declarations and reinforcing statements by Arafat to the United Nations in Geneva, the PLO has been trying to play down the importance of its charter. It has had some diplomatic triumphs.

The United States opened a dialogue with the organization in December, and Arafat’s two-day visit to France represents the first time the PLO has been welcomed at the highest level by a permanent Western member of the U.N. Security Council.

Despite the PLO’s more moderate statements, the Israelis still refuse to talk to its representatives. They say it remains a terrorist group and dismiss the new declarations as window dressing.

Israeli officials again rejected Arafat’s statements on Tuesday.

Avi Pazner, spokesman for Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, said in Jerusalem: ″We do not have to take with seriousness every utterance from the mouth of Arafat. He has a rich record of making false declarations for public relations.″

Allon Liel, Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman, said: ″As far as Israel is concerned, there still has not been a specific decision by the Palestine National Council to void the charter. It still exists.″

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