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Newspaper Supports Story That Arafat Married Previously

December 12, 1994

JERUSALEM (AP) _ The daily Haaretz newspaper said Monday that it stood behind its report that PLO leader Yasser Arafat had been previously married, despite claims from the Palestinian woman that the story is untrue.

Haaretz reported Friday that Najla Yassin, Arafat’s former office manager in Tunis, said in an interview that she and the Palestine Liberation Organization chief lived together for 18 years until 1985, but had no children.

Although Mrs. Yassin did not say they were married, Haaretz quoted unidentified Palestinian sources as saying they were.

″The whole story is a big lie,″ Mrs. Yassin told The Associated Press on Monday.

In an article published Sunday in the Al-Khaleej daily in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, Mrs. Yassin maintained that the interview was ″a trick″ and accused the reporter of representing herself as a reporter for a Palestinian paper.

Yoel Esteron, the Haaretz managing editor, denied the reporter misrepresented herself and said the newspaper stood by its story.

″Our sources that claim that Mrs. Yassin was married to Mr. Arafat are very, very senior PLO leaders. We have no reason to believe they did not know the facts about Mrs. Yassin,″ Esteron said.

″We are absolutely sure that Mrs. Yassin knew she was talking to a Haaretz reporter,″ he added.

The article was accompanied by a photo showing Arafat and Mrs. Yassin cutting a cake. A caption said they were celebrating spending 10 years together.

Mrs. Yassin said the photograph had been taking during a party for the Palestinian women’s union.

Arafat’s office in Gaza denied any knowledge of Mrs. Yassin and declined to comment on the Haaretz report.

Arafat, 65, had long maintained he never married until 1991 because he was married to the Palestinian cause. But there had been rumors linking him to a number of women.

His 1991 marriage to Suha, his 31-year-old wife, was kept secret for over a year. Suha, who announced she was pregnant last week, said reports her husband was married previously were false.

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